Sago Palm Toxicity

Sago Palm plants are a very common decorative house plant as well as a landscaping plant.  Unfortunately, the ingestion of any part of a Sago Palm is extremely dangerous to people and animals.  Sago palm is also commonly called Cardboard Palm or Coontie Palm but refers to the genus Cycads. They thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, and require very little care.  This makes them readily available and good for beginning gardeners. I recently noticed some Sago palms being sold as Bonsai plants at some stores.  On close inspection of their plant tag, I found, in fine print, a tiny notice that these plants are poisonous if ingested. This prompted me to look at other websites for Sago plants and see how easily I was able to find their warnings.  Sadly, only two websites that I looked at had a disclaimer of their toxicity, and they were not easily seen. It is important that all pet owners know of common household dangers, which prompted me to write this blog post to share with you.

The toxin associated with Sago palms is cycasin. This toxin causes gastrointestinal upset within 15 minutes. Left untreated, the toxins will cause liver failure and death.  Diagnosis of sago palm toxicity can be quite difficult if ingestion of the plant was not witnessed. Signs can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and inappetence the same day of ingestion. Once there is liver toxicity, usually within 2-3 days, your pet may be painful in their abdomen, have black-tarry stool, and will appear jaundiced on their skin, mucous membranes, inner aspects of the ears, and the whites of their eyes. They may also become ataxic, or lose their balance, and will eventually have seizures.

The entire Sago plant is poisonous, however, the seeds are the most toxic. The amount of toxin ingested and size and health status of your pet all play a factor in their survival.  Even with aggressive decontamination and treatment, survival rate is only 50%. If you see or suspect your cat or dog has ingested this or any toxin, take them to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital where they can be safely decontaminated, and treatment can be initiated. Make sure you don’t have any plants from the genus Cycads in your home or on your property. Try to remember to bring a piece of the plant with you, if possible!