What is Sago Palm Poisoning?
Cats are not just prone to plant poisoning from houseplants inside the home, toxic plants are also found outside. This leaves both indoor and outdoor cats at risk. It's also important to consider displays for holidays that contain live plants that could be toxic to pets.
Sago palm poisoning occurs when cats ingest or chew on a toxic plant in the Sago palm family. Some of the plants in this family include zamias, coontie palms, cycads, and cardboard palms. Poisoning from eating plants can lead to liver malfunction and death. It is important to know what plants are poisonous to cats and to keep them out of your home or out of cats’ reach.
Symptoms of Sago Palm Poisoning in Cats
Sago palm poisoning can quickly cause liver damage, leading to death in the worst case scenario. Even a tiny amount of ingested toxin can cause symptoms, which include:
- Bloody feces
- Increased thirst
- Increased Urination
- Signs of weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Fluid retention in the abdomen
Similar to the human liver, the cat's liver helps metabolize the food eaten and remove toxins and waste from the body. When liver damage or disease is not dealt with swiftly it can cause the shutdown of other organs.
Plants that fall into the Sago palm family include:
- Coontie palms
- Cardboard palms
Many other types of plants are toxic to cats, and can cause similar symptoms, including:
- Autumn Crocus
- Plants in the Lily family (including Easter lilies, tiger lilies, and day lilies)
- Japanese yew
- Cardiac Glycoside plants (including foxglove, oleander, and lily of the valley)
- Castor bean
- Grayanotoxin plants (including azaleas)
Many of the symptoms of poisoning from these other plants are similar, but can also often lead to heart issues and breathing problems.
The only way to ensure that your cat does not come into contact with poisonous plants is to know which ones are harmful and keep them out of your home. Outdoor cats can come into contact with toxic plants anywhere, making it safer to keep cats indoors.
Causes of Sago Palm Poisoning in Cats
Sago palm plants contain a toxin called cycasin. When a cat eats any part of these plants, the toxin goes directly to the liver and causes symptoms. Once the toxin attacks the liver the cat can suffer from neurological disorders, abnormal bleeding, and clotting (which can lead to stroke).
Liver disease untreated can lead to death. The sooner your cat receives medical care the better its prognosis will be. Since the liver also plays a role in digestion, cats with liver damage have issues absorbing nutrients which can further harm their health.
Diagnosis of Sago Palm Poisoning in Cats
If you have toxic plants in your home or yard it can be easy to determine if you cat has ingested some by looking for bitten off leaves and stems. If you suspect this has happened you need to contact your vet immediately. If it is after hours, call a local emergency veterinary clinic or an animal poison control center.
Blood and urine tests can identify damage to the liver. Your vet will begin treatment immediately if poisoning is suspected.
Treatment of Sago Palm Poisoning in Cats
The cycasin found in the Sago Palm Plant has no antidote. The treatment method veterinarians use will depend on the time since ingestion. They can include:
- Inducing vomiting, to remove plant before it is absorbed by the stomach
- Administration of activated charcoal, which binds with toxins and remove them from the system
- Intravenous fluid therapy
- Stomach pumping
These treatments may be followed by the use of anti-nausea medications, medications to help prevent seizures, vitamin K injections, and IV fluids. As outpatient treatments, your cat will likely not need to be put under sedation.
Recovery of Sago Palm Poisoning in Cats
Sago Palm poisoning typically has a grim outcome, and even with aggressive treatment leaves a survival rate of only about 50 percent. The sooner you get your cat veterinary care the better its chances of recovery.
If treatment is successful, regular follow-up care may be required to keep an eye on liver health. Your cat may need to be put on a special diet, and you will need to watch for further signs of liver damage and neurological issues. If the cat has already digested toxic Sago palm plant materials and treatment is unlikely to be successful, efforts may be made to keep the cat comfortable until its death, or humane euthanization may be recommended.
Be sure to remove Sago Palm plants in your home and in your yard to prevent your cat from a recurrence and to keep other pets from accidental poisoning.