Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poison Alert!

Sago Palm or Cycad

Please allow me to share an alert with you that has been brought to my attention. It involves a houseplant that can cause serious poisoning in pets and children. The plant is called a Sago Palm or Cycad.

In Southern states, it is used in landscaping. As a matter of fact, my sister, who lives in Savannah, GA, has a huge one in her front yard, and less than two weeks ago, it was used as a backdrop for graduation pictures taken of Cierra, a 2009 graduate of Johnson High School.

Although it can only survive in the North as a houseplant, its popularity is on the rise and many home improvement stores have them on their shelves. Two days before receiving this alert, Mom almost purchased one at Lowe's. Thankfully, she didn't waste her money. Even though the lush Beulah Ruth Memorial Garden has provided a safehaven for many unwanted and needy plants, neither M nor D would allow a species capable of harming Rog or me to reside within the confines of the ever-expanding gardens.

All of the Sago Palm, including the seeds and root ball are toxic. Signs of illness first appear about 12 hours after ingestion and include gastrointestinal sign such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. The toxins in the plant lead to severe liver failure with progressive weakness, jaundice, bruising, bleeding, and other signs of liver failure that eventually lead to death.

If you have one of these plants in your home, be sure to keep it away from pets and children preferably by disposing of it safely in a covered trash can or re-home it with someone who does not have pets or young children.

Should you ever suspect ingestion of a potentially poisonous substance, it is important to act quickly and contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) immediately for help.

According to the data compiled and reported by the ASPCA Poison Control Center, the five most potentially dangerous plants to companion animals are:
  1. Lilies
  2. Azaleas
  3. Oleander
  4. Sago Palm
  5. Caster Bean
Unfortunately, plants are not easily marked with Mr. Yuk stickers like bottles of toxic chemicals. In case you've never been introduced to Mr. Yuk, now's the perfect time for a note on his origin and purpose.

Mr. Yuk™ was created in 1971 by the Pittsburgh Poison Center. Since then, Mr. Yuk has been used to educate children and adults about poison prevention and to promote poison center awareness. Additionally, Mr. Yuk has helped raise awareness that poison centers are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to assist in the management of poisoning emergencies. In addition to his yucky face, every Mr. Yuk sticker displays the toll-free phone number for the national poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for spreading the word on pet toxicities on your blog - so important for pet owners to be aware of the lurking household poisons in (and outside of) their house! As an ER specialist, I see so many toxicities that owners bring in too late (making it more expensive to treat, with a worse prognosis!). When in doubt, it's so important to call a Poison Control for peace of mind!

I wanted to make you aware of another important resource out there also - Pet Poison Helpline is an additional Animal Poison Control Center, and it's one of the most cost-effective animal poison ($35/case vs. ASPCA's new $60/case) controls out there nowadays. Unfortunately, because animal poison controls are not federal- or state-funded, there is a fee to allow the service to be run 24-7. We provide a similar service, but have the added benefit of veterinary specialists (in internal medicine and emergency and critical care) as part of our staff. You can always call 1-800-213-6680 if you ever have a problem. Thanks for spreading the word!

Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC
Associate Director of Veterinary Services