Sago Palm – Poison Plants
Poisonous Plants of Las Vegas – Sago Palm
The sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is not really a palm; it’s a member of the cycad family, Cycadaceae. The sago palm can be grown outdoors or indoors, and it can be used as a bonsai. I just had my sago palms trimmed by Las Vegas Tree Company and did a wonderful job. It is also a popular ornamental plant that is highly poisonous to dogs, cats, and humans.
What makes it poisonous?
The sago palm contains several toxins with the main one being cycasin. In small doses, cycasin can cause an upset stomach, but in large doses it can cause liver failure. Other toxins found in the sago palm include a neurotoxic amino acid called beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMMA) and an unidentified toxin that paralyzes the back legs of cattle. While all parts of the sago palm contain some poison, the seeds or nuts are especially toxic.
Symptoms of poisoning
The first symptoms can occur within 15 minutes to several hours after eating the plant. They include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite. Two or three days later, the victim will start showing signs of damage to both the nervous system and the liver. The symptoms at this stage can include seizures, weakness, ataxia (stumbling and unsteady gait), jaundice and tarry, black stools. Other symptoms can include stomach pain and abnormal fluid retention in the abdomen.
Sago palm is especially toxic to dogs. Unfortunately, dogs also seem to like the taste of sago palm. While estimates of the mortality rate vary, they are high. Even with treatment, a dog has about a 50 percent chance of surviving. Most of the survivors end up with liver damage, and 90 percent of these eventually die from that liver damage.
How can sago palm poisoning be treated?
Unfortunately, there is no known antidote for sago palm. Still, quick treatment can improve a victim’s chances of surviving. The first step will involve “decontamination” or getting the poison out of the victim’s system. You should give the victim hydrogen peroxide immediately to induce vomiting and get them to the veterinarian or doctor. The medical professional will set up an IV to flush out the poisons, and they will take a blood sample to check for liver damage.
The second step of the treatment will include supportive care for the nervous system, GI tract and liver. Such treatments will be given to take care of immediate problems and any long-term damage. The supportive care can include anti-seizure medications, more IV fluids and gastroprotectants, with the latter being drugs used to treat ulcers and other injuries of the GI tract.
How can sago palm poisoning be prevented?
The easiest way to prevent a pet or small child from getting poisoned by a sago palm is to not have any on your property. If you like ornamental plants and have pets and/or small children you need to choose plants that are not toxic.
If you have sago palms on your property, you should handle them carefully. You should not use the nuts or pods as toys when playing fetch with a dog. Some people have actually done that , and the dog can die as a result.
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