What is Cardboard Palm Poisoning?
The coontie palm usually grows in warm climates like Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. Most often it is found in yards as an ornamental tree, but some people keep them as indoor plants. These have also started growing wild, mostly in Louisiana and Florida along the highways. These palms are short and wide with fern-like leaves and a large cone (female) or several smaller cones (males) in the middle. While the entire plant is poisonous, it is the seeds in the cones that are deadly.
The cardboard palm is known by many other names including coontie plant, sago palm, and sago tree to name a few. This palm contains dangerous toxins that can make your dog extremely ill if only one seed is eaten, and two seeds may be deadly. The poisonous substances in the cardboard palm are cycasin, which causes gastrointestinal problems and failure of the liver which may be fatal, and Beta-methylamino-alanine (BMAA), which is a neurotoxin that damages the central nervous system and can have lethal consequences.
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Symptoms of Cardboard Palm Poisoning in Dogs
Mild poisoning (one leaf or stem) usually has no symptoms at all so you will not know your dog has been poisoned until a higher toxicity is reached. Symptoms may be acute or chronic depending on the amount your dog has consumed. If your dog ate just two seeds, acute poisoning will be evident within less than an hour in most cases. These symptoms will be gastrointestinal (digestive) and hepatic (liver). Chronic symptoms occur over time from your dog consuming a small amount of leaves or stems daily. These symptoms are neurological and can be overlooked for some time until your dog has eaten a large amount.
Central nervous system
- Ataxia (Loss of muscle function)
- Falling down
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea (which may be bloody or black and tarry)
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Increased thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting (which may be bloody)
- Enlarged liver
- Liver damage
- Liver failure
- Swelling in feet
- Weight increase due to water retention
The cardboard plant (Zamia pumila) is from the Cycadaceae family in the order of the cycadales, class cycadopsida: There are several types of these palms, which includes:
- Japanese cycad
- Sago palm
Causes of Cardboard Palm Poisoning in Dogs
The toxins in the cardboard palm are:
- Beta-methylamino-alanine (BMAA), which is a neurotoxin that damages the central nervous system
- Cycasin, which is a phytotoxin, can cause damage to the liver and liver failure, leading to death
Diagnosis of Cardboard Palm Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian needs to know as many details as you can provide about what kind of plant your dog ate, how much, and when it was consumed. It is helpful to bring a part or a photo of the plant to show the veterinarian. Let the team know what symptoms you have noticed, if any. Since this is a life-threatening situation, the veterinarian will start your dog on intravenous and provide oxygen during the examination. Apomorphine will probably be given to induce vomiting at this time. Provide them with your dog’s medical history and vaccination records. A comprehensive physical examination will be done by the veterinarian next to determine your dog’s condition. Weight, blood pressure, reflexes, blood oxygen level respiration rate, body temperature, heart rate and overall appearance will be checked and recorded.
Laboratory tests that are necessary for prognosis are a urinalysis, stool sample, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels, packed cell volume (PCV), complete blood count (CBC), electrolyte levels, and a biochemistry analysis to look for increased ALT, bilirubin, and albumin levels. Additionally, abdominal radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan can be helpful in determining if there is any internal damage. In many cases, the veterinarian will also take a biopsy of the liver for microscopic evaluation.
Treatment of Cardboard Palm Poisoning in Dogs
If the veterinarian has not already done so, activated charcoal will be administered to absorb the toxins. A blood transfusion, antibiotics, liver protectants, and continued fluid therapy are the usual protocol. Monitoring of the patient and continuously reviewing the liver and kidney function are important to be sure the liver is healing well. Managing liver function is essential in the case of acute liver failure. A stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours is usually recommended.
Recovery of Cardboard Palm Poisoning in Dogs
Recovery for your dog can be expected if you get treatment for your dog as soon as you can, and there are no underlying health conditions. Because of the possibility of kidney or liver damage, you will need to bring your dog back for blood tests in 7 to 10 days. Recovery is dependent on the amount of the cardboard palm your dog has eaten and what symptoms have been detected. Prompt medical attention is necessary to the recovery of your dog. In addition, be sure to get rid of the cardboard palm or move it to a place your dog cannot get to so this does not happen again. Call your veterinarian if you have any questions about your companion’s progress.