Picture it: a sunny, sandy beach; a warm, tropical breeze; a comfortable lounge chair with a cool, refreshing drink enjoyed under swaying palm fronds. It may sound wonderful, but pet poisonings from the increasingly popular Sago Palm are on the rise.
Palm trees have long been icons of the tropics, evoking images of an island paradise. The Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) – a stocky, spiky leaved member of the Cycad family of plants – is a lovely addition to residential landscapes in the sunny climates of the Southern United States. In recent years, miniature or "bonsai" versions of Sago Palm have also found their way into the hearts and homes of people living in the cooler, drier northern parts of the country.
While this popular palm is no doubt an attractive plant, pet parents should beware: Sago Palm is highly toxic. Sago and other cycad palms contain toxic compounds that can potentially produce vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, seizures and even liver failure and death in cats and dogs.
"Many people familiar with this plant's poisonous nature assume that the only poisonous portions are the seed, or nut from the female," says Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, veterinary toxicologist and Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "However, all parts of these plants are toxic, whether male or female."
Dr. Gwaltney-Brant also says that over the past five years, the Center has witnessed an increase in Sago and other Cycad Palm cases of more than 200 percent. According to the Center's data, 50 to 75 percent of cases involving ingestion of Sago Palm result in fatalities, further illustrating the serious danger that the plant poses. Dr. Gwaltney-Brant states, "Because pet parents and possibly veterinarians in northern regions of the country where these plants are becoming more popular may not be as familiar with the toxic effects of Cycad Palms, we feel that it is critical to get information out about their toxic potential."
As with any toxin, pet parents should take the necessary precautions to prevent their furry family members from coming into contact with Sago Palms in and around their home. Or better yet, replace the plant with a non-toxic alternative. For a list of non-toxic plants, please visit http://www.aspca.org/nontoxic.
About the ASPCA® Animal Poison Control Center
Established in 1978, the ASPCA® Animal Poison Control Center is the only 24-hour, 365-day animal-dedicated poison control center in North America staffed by 30 veterinarians, 13 of who are board-certified general and/or veterinary toxicologists. Located in Urbana, Illinois, the specially trained staff provides assistance to pet owners, and specific diagnostic and treatment recommendations to veterinarians pertaining to toxic chemicals and dangerous plants, products or substances. The Center also provides extensive veterinary toxicology consulting on a wide array of subjects, including legal cases, formulation issues, product liability, and regulatory reporting. For more information on potentially dangerous substances in the home or to reach the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, please call (888) 426-4435 or visit www.aspca.org/apcc.
About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has more than one million supporters throughout North America. A 501 [c]  not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA's mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited, animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York's animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series "Animal Precinct" on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org.