Sago Palms Are Poisonous To Animals

After seeing so many poisonous plants for sale at the local home improvement store, I decided to start a new category dealing with poisonous plants.  The number of poisonous plants used in landscaping and as indoor plants is absolutely staggering.  Before you bring any plant into your house, check to see if it is safe for pets and small children. 

Sago palms, also called cycad palms are very poisonous.  The seeds, fruit and base are loaded with cycasin, a toxin that causes liver failure.  Ingestion of just one seed may cause death in a dog.  Vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, depression and neurologic signs develop within a few hours of ingestion.  Abnormalities in the blood work lag behind clinical signs by about 24 hours making it hard to diagnose.  Death occurs within hours to days depending upon the amount of poison ingested.   

In a study of 60 dogs with sago palm toxicosis, 95% of them developed liver failure and gastrointestinal problems.  Neurologic signs including posterior paresis, depression, problems with coordination called ataxia and seizures occurred in 50% of the animals studied.  Unfortunately, once clinical signs occur, one third of dogs will die. 

If your pet has been exposed to a sago palm, bring them to your veterinarian for immediate decontamination.  Do not take a wait and see approach with this poison.  If you have these plants in your yard or house, I must suggest you remove them immediately to prevent an accidental poisoning.  The following pictures will help you identify this plant.


Albretson, JC, et al, “Cycad palm toxicosis in dogs – 60 cases (1982-1997)”, JAVMA 1998 Vol 213 (1) pp. 99-101.   

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.