The sago palm is a very common decorative plant in the Southeast. I see it in the landscape at many homes. Most people do not know just how poisonous this plant is to dogs.
In fact, the sago is one of the most dangerous plants in the environment. To make it even worse, it propagates very easily and little palms start sprouting up everywhere. When fully grown the root ball is very hard to dig up.
All parts of the plant are toxic to dogs. The most common reaction I get from people is that their dog "doesn't bother it." Famous last words - until your dog casually decides to reach for a leaf, bark or seeds.
The seeds, or nuts, are the most toxic part. Within 15 minutes this plant has toxic effects to the dog's nervous system and intestines. The plant contains cycasin, which also causes liver failure. The more immediate noticeable symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and acute gastrointestinal disorders.
If you suspect your dog has ingested this plant call the pet poison helpline immediately (855-764-7661). It is available 24/7. With immediate treatment, your dog has a better chance of surviving the effects of the toxin. In some cases the survival rate is only 50%.
Contact your vet - or if one is not available I urge you to get to an Emergency Veterinarian. With immediate and proper care your dog will have a better chance at survival.
These plants are quite decorative and seem to be used everywhere. Even if they are not on your property, you must stay clear of them when you walk your dog. Do not allow your dog to sniff around them. Do not let dogs wander anywhere near the palms.
Keep your dog on a leash in areas that have them. If your dog lunges to explore them, use a very firm, deep voice "Leave it" cue. If you see any pods or seeds pick them up and dispose of them in the trash.
The Lowcountry can be a dangerous place to pets. Some things we can control, such as eliminating the sago palm our properties.
(NOTE to rescue organizations: If you do home visits before you adopt the dog to the home, check to see if there are sago palms on the property. Request that they be removed before you finalize the adoption.)
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com