Sago palm killing pets: poisonous plant dangerous when eaten by animals and humans

Photo provided by staff.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 11:00pm

A local plant that can be found in your backyard is killing pets across the south.

The sago palm is a plant that’s seen everywhere in our area. It’s a plant that dates back to the prehistoric era and has been around even before humans were on earth.

As the temperatures start to warm up, the sago palm will continue to flourish and seed. Although they might look nice, they are actually causing trouble and sadness for many families across the south.

“I want everyone to know these plants are not just bad they are deadly within hours," said Baton Rouge local, Jessica Madere.

This sago palm is causing one family here in Baton Rouge a lot of pain and possibly even more. Less than two days ago, they held their dog in their arms but Wednesday they are coming home to an empty house, all because of this deadly plant.

“We were at the dog park all weekend we had dog play dates with our friends,” noted Madere.

Jessica Madere is talking about just this past weekend with her four year old dog Louise.

"When I first got her we thought we would foster her but we kept her obviously."

But on Sunday, she got sick, so Jessica and her husband took her to the LSU Vet School to find out some surprising news.

"They came out again and said it was sago-toxicity and that she would need thousands of dollars of treatment."

It’s something veterinarians say ultimately can cause death. We went from thinking she had a stomach ache to a few hours later having to put our little dog down.

It’s all because of the sago palm.

“Every part of the plant is toxic. There is no part of the plant that is safe," said LSU Veterinarian, Mark Acierno, DVM.

"We've seen animal chew the leaves they have chewed the seeds and we've seen they chew the base of it,” noted Dr. Acierno.

Also if you see pieces on the ground that appears dead, those too are as poisonous as the living part of the plant.

The first sign your pet has eaten part of this plant is extreme vomiting.

“Then over time over the next 24-48 hours they will go into severe liver failure."

And only 25- 50 percent will live but that treatment will come with a hefty price. Dr. Mark Acierno reminds people to just keep their kids and dogs away from the plants.

“My recommendation to anyone who has sago palm in or around their home is to rip them out and throw them away. They are that poisonous they just should be around animals.”

So 24 hours after putting Louise down, the Maderes ripped up their sago palm and even spread the word to family and friends about how dangerous it can be. Now are just letting the past three days settle in.

“It’s still hard going home when she's not wagging her whole butt,” said Madere.

LSU is one of the only schools nationwide looking into a diagnostic test to see if any animals have signs of the toxin in their system. This could potentially save lives.

This plant is also potentially deadly when consumed by people. So please take caution with your kids.


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