Avoiding Sago Palms With Your Dog

Do you have any sago palm trees at your home? Or does your usual dog walk take you near any sago palms?

If so, please be sure to read this story sent to us by Tampa’s Keene Veterinary Hospital. Paula Tatgenhorst, who had been living in Tampa for only nine months after relocating from St. Louis, Missouri for a new job opportunity. Her three rescue dogs, Bella, Boomer and Cindy had made the trip to the Sunshine State with the rest of her family.

On a warm day in March, Paula decided to do some spring gardening, which involved her replanting two seeds from a plant in her front yard into a pot on her pool patio. Hours later, she found Bella playing with one of the walnut-size seeds. Paula, not being a Florida native, did not realize the seed posed a tremendous amount of danger. She did what any pet parent would do: took the seed away, not knowing Bella had swallowed the second one.

Within hours, Bella began vomiting severely. Paula rushed her to Keene Veterinary Hospital in Tampa, where Terrence S. Keene, DVM began treatment. A neighbor provided a photo of the plant, and Dr. Keene quickly identified the culprit as the Sago Palm.

“The entire plant, including seeds, root ball, and leaves are extremely toxic,” said Dr. Keene. “In fact, roughly 75 percent of animals who ingest this plant suffer liver failure and do not make it, even when treated with aggressive veterinary care. What makes the situation even worse is that the seeds are very tasty to dogs.”

Bella was put on IV fluids, administered potent medication and received 24-hour care. She survived throughout the night and was able to return to her home the following day. But sadly, Bella’s prognosis is still not good.

Because the poison is slow-moving, she may be still fighting to survive for weeks, months and years to come. She will undergo routine blood work for months to gauge the level of damage to her liver, which has likely shortened her life.

Despite the fact that the Sago Palm (also known as the Cyad) is poisonous to both pets and children, it is used widely in Florida for outdoor landscaping

“It is terrifying that this toxic plant was growing right outside our door,” said Tatgenhorst. “It is time we see efforts to improve awareness and increase warnings on the seed and plant labels. It is also imperative that homeowners identify all of the plants in their yards and dispose of the threats properly before it is too late.”

According to the ASPCA, ingestion of the sago palm causes vomiting, melena, icterus, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, coagulopathy, liver damage, liver failure and death in pets.

If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of this plant, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Time is a key factor in saving your pet’s life.

For additional information, visit aspca.org or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Photo of one of several types of sago palms, the Cycas revoluta or King Sago cycad, taken by DanielCD; courtesy Wikipedia


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About Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.

  • Great post. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will definitely share this information.  I live in the South, and we use Sago palms quiet frequently in our landscaping but did not know they are toxic to dogs.

    •  Yes, I see Sago palms *everywhere* here and I don’t think most people realize how toxic they are…that’s scary!

  • Poodlepinnk55

    Yes tks for posting I also live in South Fl, jut adopted a puppy who is lways looking to put everything in his mouth…when i walk him at night I watch out for Marine frogs also , now these plants …be safe everyone …<3

    •  That’s right…you have those frogs there to worry about!!I’m in Texas and it seems that every other thing bites or stings but I’m glad we don’t have those frogs. Your new puppy is a lucky little guy to have you looking out for him!

  • Skryvania

    I am so grateful you posted this article as I was just at the garden center contemplating a sego palm! Thank you! My fur babies are my life!

    •  You are very welcome! We used to have a sago palm behind our house (not in the yard) but had to dig it up when we learned about the toxicity. I love how they look…but that’s just TOO scary! Paris