Cycad palms can be found in most gardens in Queensland, and are often grown as ornamentals & house plants. Most people are not fully aware that this plant which looks relatively harmless is extremely poisonous to pets if eaten in any quantity.
At Rochedale Vet we recently saw a case of cyad palm poisoning in a sweet 3 year old beagle by the name of Winston. His owners pulled out a cycad plant whilst gardening & left it lying on the ground till they disposed of it the next day (as most of us do). But Winston, seemed to find the base of the plant tasty & ingested enough plant material to then make himself vomit. Only two hours later he became a little quiet & at this point his owner brought him into the clinic. By the time he came into the clinic he had vomited numerous times & certainly emptied this stomach of any plant material.
To understand the intensive treatment he then received at our clinic there is some vital information that needs to be shared about cycads. The toxic product in cycads is called cycasin, it is found in the seeds, fruit & base of the palm. The seeds contain a higher concentration of cycasin & the ingestion of one or more seeds has resulted in liver failure & death in dogs. Vomiting often occurs within 3 hours or less of ingestion, followed by other signs such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, paralysis (rare), depression, coma & death over the next several hours to few days. Dogs will lose protein through their gastrointestinal tract, may develop suddenly liver failure, & may develop clotting problems due to the massive damage of liver cells. Although, signs of sickness are seen within 1 day of ingestion, laboratory values may not become abnormal for 24 to 48 hours after cycad ingestion. If signs of poisoning develop, the scary thing is 1/3 of pets will NOT survive.
So when Winston arrived at our clinic, we took this very seriously, starting aggressive treatment, flushing & emptying his gastrointestinal system, syringing a medication orally to ‘mop’ up any toxins, intensive fluids, antacids, antibiotics & a drug to help the liver fight toxins & regenerate damaged tissue. Winston made it through the first 24 hours & seemed to be turning the corner when changes started to take place on his blood work indicating liver damage. We monitored these closely as they kept increasing over the next few days but due to the intensive treatment he received & supportive owners, his liver started to reverse any damage & after a long 4 weeks he was back to his usual cheeky energetic self!