The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is warning pet owners and farmers about the dangers of exposing pets or livestock to sago palms.
Sago palm is a common plant of the cycad family that is very popular with landscapers and homeowners in south Louisiana. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that sago palm seeds, leaves, and roots are extremely toxic to pets. Clinicians at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine regularly see dogs suffering from sago palm toxicity. Soon after eating seeds, leaves or roots, dogs start to throw up. Clinical signs then go on to include lethargy, lack of appetite, diarrhea and jaundice.
Ingestion of this plant can be fatal due to its toxic effects on the liver, including disruption in blood clotting leading to bleeding. LSU veterinarians see most cases in the spring and summer; however, intoxications can occur year round. In most cases, intensive treatment is necessary, including intravenous fluids and transfusion of blood products. In spite of these efforts, more than one half of dogs die from the toxicity. This is why in the case of sago palms an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure.
Many pesticides and lawn care products are potentially toxic to pets. Be sure to store these items where pets have no access to them. After treating lawns and outside areas, restrict pets from these areas until exposure danger has passed.
Also, be aware that many other types of summer foliage (such as hydrangea, wisteria, delphinium, foxglove, privet hedge and monkshood) can be toxic to pets as well, so do your best to prevent your pets from eating them.
Plants that are toxic to horses and livestock include senna (commonly known as sicklepod, coffee senna, coffee weed and cassia) and perilla mint (also known as purple mint). Symptoms of senna ingestion include diarrhea, wobbliness, weakness and dark urine. Ruminants are primarily affected by ingesting perilla mint, and symptoms include respiratory distress.
If your pet or animal becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem. If your pet requires medical care after-hours, you can bring your pet to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and remains open even during holidays when LSU is closed.
For pets (dogs, cats and exotics), please call 225-578-9600; for horses and livestock, please call 225-578-9500. Go to http://www.vetmed.lsu.edu for more information about the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.