Opposite page: Lily, a beloved French Bulldog that passed away at 18 months of age after chewing the leaves and eating the soil of an indoor Sago Palm houseplant. This page, at top: Alex Siekman and Kate Wagner with their pups, Lily and Mac, enjoying family time at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. At center: Lily was always a happy and playful pup and loved spending time outdoors in the sun. At right: Lily and Mac were the best of buddies and enjoyed sleeping and playing together. Photos courtesy of Kate Wagner an excess of abdominal fluid and possible bruising and/or bleeding disorders. Sadly, in recent years, Sago Palms are no longer just used in outdoor landscaping; they have moved indoors as decorative houseplants and are easy to find in home supply stores and garden centers throughout the United States. Continued on Page 36 In an online fact check, Snopes.com reports that 75 to 80 percent of animals that have ingested any parts of this toxic plant will die, despite aggressive veterinary care. Cause of death: Severe liver failure. In an article titled, “Alert: Sago Palm Toxicity in Dogs” published online at www.thebark.com, author Shea Cox, DVM, reports that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has seen a 200 percent increase in the number of Sago Palm poisonings in the past 5 years, with a 50 to 75 percent fatality rate. Dogs and cats are not the only victims of Sago Palm poisoning. Horses, along with a variety of farm animals, including cattle and sheep, also are susceptible. But that’s not all: Curious children also have been known to nibble on the leaves with potentially deadly results. The Texas Poison Center Network reports that clinical symptoms of Sago Palm poisoning usually develop within 12 hours in humans and can be quite severe. In addi- tion to toxic liver disease that manifests with jaundice, symptoms may include vomiting, “We wanted to give her every chance of survival, not only because of her young age, but also because there always was a possibility that she would make it,” Kate says. “It’s so hard knowing when it is the right time to let a pet go; we had so much hope that she would recover.” Not only did purchasing a highly toxic $5 plant from a local big box store cost Kate and Alex the life of their beloved Lily, it also burdened the young couple with exorbitant medical bills. Getting to the Root of the Toxicity As part of the cycad family of plants, the Sago Palm, scientifically called “cycas revoluta,” is known by several names, including “Coontie Palms,” “Cardboard Palms,” “Cycads” or “Zymias.” Used extensively in outdoor landscaping in the warmer climates of our nation’s southern states, the Sago Palm also has become a popular indoor houseplant in northern homes, thanks to nationwide distribution by one of the world’s largest, USA- based horticultural growers. Many plant lovers, like Kate, are attracted to the Sago Palm because of its “feathery foliage,” its natural ability to thrive in full sun, partial shade or indoors and its relatively easy care. Most people, however, are unaware that the plant is poisonous from the tips of its palm-like fronds to its underground roots. According to The Spruce Pets, an online site for pet wellness and lifestyle tips (www.thesprucepets.com), our pets “find cycad plants very palatable and pleasing to chew on.” In other words, they are tasty, and curious pets often are drawn to them with potentially deadly consequences. The Spruce Pets also reports that the Sago Palm’s sprouting leaves and reddish-orange seeds that fall to the ground are especially poisonous. In fact, eating just one single seed, the site reports, could potentially kill a dog, because the seeds contain the highest levels of cycasin, the plant’s primary toxin. This toxin, which is not only a neurotoxic glycoside (a nerve-poisoning plant sugar), but also a carcinogen, has no antidote. When ingested, cycasin can irritate an animal’s gastrointestinal tract and lead to liver failure. Here is the cold, hard truth: The death rate of animals that have ingested any part of the Sago Palm plant is as high as 75 percent, even with excellent and aggressive veterinary care.
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