What are the first items you think of when you hear ‘pet toxicity’? Chocolate.. Mouse poison.. Antifreeze? All of which are correct. But have you thought about less obvious pet poisons? Think about human medications: Ibuprofen, thyroid medications, cold medicine, or household plants: Lilies, daffodils, tulips. What about a sago palm?
You may not even know what a sago palm looks like, however these plants are deadly to pets. Sago palms contain cycasin, which is the primary toxin agent resulting in intensive liver damage in dogs. If any part of a sago palm is ingested the effect on the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system can be immediately observed from 15 minutes to several hours afterwards. Even with aggressive treatment, the survival rate is bleak. Enter Briggs…
Briggs initially came to see us as a healthy 5-month-old puppy. He loved to socialize with people and play outside. One evening Briggs found a sago palm to snack on in the compost pile and within one hour was vomiting and lethargic. Briggs’s owner called the Pet Poison Hotline shortly afterwards to inquire about a potential toxicity. Pet Poison Hotline instructed to bring Briggs in for hospitalization. Bloodwork revealed that Briggs’s liver had already been compromised by the sago palm. Dr. Karyn began treating Briggs right away with multiple medications to buffer the stomach, support the liver, and reduce the nausea. After 3 weeks of treatment and bloodwork, Briggs was getting worse. He began exhibiting other symptoms of a sago palm toxicity: diarrhea, lack of appetite, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
Briggs’s owner never gave up on him and continued to purse treatment options through Dr. Karyn. Over the course of 6 months, with intensive care and a little luck, he got better. It has now been 2 years since his sago palm ingestion and Briggs has grown into a strong and happy dog.
Recognize Common Poisons for Dogs & Cats
Human Food: Chocolate, grapes, xylitol (common in sugar-free gum), alcohol
Human medications: Ibuprofen, prescription medications, cold medicine
Pesticides and Rodenticides: Remember that rodents that ingest rodenticides are still harmful to pets that eat them
Plants: Azaleas, tulips, daffodils, sago palms, lilies
Chemicals: bleach, antifreeze, engine coolant, etc.
While it seems impossible to keep track of every potential poison, it is important to know what steps to take after your pet has ingested a poison.
1. Note what your pet ingested, how much, and when. Also monitor your pet’s behavior.
2. Call a pet toxicity hotline or your veterinarian to determine risk for toxicity.
For a complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, cats, and horses visit: