Sago palms everywhere on the island, but deadly to pets

March 7, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Pet owners, be aware: Sago palm trees are in full fruit, and the red nuts that fall all over the ground can kill a pet or child if ingested.
Several island dogs have succumbed to sago palm fruit toxicity over the years, as all parts of the Sago palm are poisonous. The seeds (nuts) are the most toxic to pets, though, and are easier for them to eat than the prickly fronds. For some reason, some pets seem to find them attractive and tasty, which is a fatal problem.
The sago palm may look like a tiny palm tree with its glossy, stiff fronds, but it is not a palm tree at all. Sago palms are cycads, one of the most ancient of plants that has been around since prehistoric times. The sago palm toxin, called cycasin, attacks the liver causing a broad range of symptoms. … the size of the pet influences the level of toxicity.
In 2014 island resident Nancy Sodel lost her doberman after he frequently came in contact with them in his own backyard. She described his illness as coming and going, with occasional vomiting and loss of appetite. Sometimes it was bad enough to have to take him to the veterinarian for fluids and medications to settle his stomach. They had seen him chewing on something in the yard, but assumed their landscaper wouldn’t plant toxic plants, knowing they had pets; they just assumed that he just had a sensitive digestive system and treated him accordingly.
That continued for months, until one day they found pieces of the nut in his vomit. As the dog was being driven to the emergency care clinic in Sarasota, Nancy texted the landscape architect and described the plant. He said it was a sago palm nut, and that it was safe.
Or so he thought.
Just a few minutes later he called Nancy back in a panic, after researching the palm and finding out they were highly toxic. Nancy’s dog passed away, even after his veterinarian and a team of professionals at a pet poison control center in Illinois did their best to save him.
By the time your pet starts to exhibit symptoms of sago palm poisoning, it is quite often too late. If you have any inkling at all that they may have ingested any part of a sago palm nut, they need veterinary car immediately.
Unfortunately, there are far too many of these palms on the island to get rid of all of them quickly … and far too many pet owners aren’t aware of the danger.
These plants are not only found in outdoor landscapes, they are used as ornamental houseplants as well, so always be aware if you and your pet are visiting a home that has a lot of indoor plants that you need to check the area.
Remember, due to the prolific amount of sago palms on the island, it is up to you to police your pet in your yard, and on walks, to make sure they don’t pick up anything toxic. There are other plants, as well as insects, that can harm or kill your pet in the state of Florida that can be found everywhere.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435