Cycad Palm Poisonous to Dogs

Cycad palm is toxic to dogs, and depending on the amount of plant consumed and the dog’s weight, it could result in a severe medical emergency.

If you know your dog has eaten cycad palms, it’s essential to take them to a vet at the earliest Keep reading why cycad palm is poisonous and what signs to look for that may indicate your dog needs medical treatment.

Read: Kentia Palm Vs. Majesty Palm [Complete Guide]

Why Cycad Palm is Poisonous to Dogs

The primitive cone-bearing cycad palm comprises nearly 100 species and nine genera. They thrive in tropical and subtropical regions.

All parts of cycad palms are toxic. The roots and seeds are shown to have the highest concentration of toxins.

Cycads contain cyasin, a phytotoxin that can cause damage to intercellular tissues. This leads to the release of oxidants in the bloodstream.

Sufficient amounts of these oxidants can cause damage to liver cells, causing organ failure and jaundice.

In severe cases, exposure to cycad poisoning can lead to incapacitation and even death. Cycad palms also contain a chemical known as beta-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA).

BMAA is a dangerous toxin that causes dogs to malfunction. It works by oxidizing neurons and disrupting the brain’s communicative signals through the nervous system.

This can lead to a loss of movement and coordination in the affected dog.

The symptoms of poisoning can occur as early as 15 minutes after ingestion, although in some cases, signs may not manifest for several hours.

The most common symptom of cycad palm ingestion is gastrointestinal irritation. Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and depression are one of the first signs of cycad palm poisoning.

These signs may appear minor at first, but if not treated, they can lead to more debilitating side effects, including liver failure.

Neurologic signs include wobbly gait, seizures, and tremors. Liver damage may be delayed for another three days.

A common sign of liver damage is dark urine in dogs. Their eyes and skin will show a yellowish color.

Liver failure may lead to low blood glucose levels and decreased blood clotting ability, which can result in external and internal bleeding.

If these signs are not treated at the earliest, death may occur due to shock and blood loss. The table below summarizes the signs based on their category.

Type of PoisoningSymptoms
GastrointestinalDiarrhea, bloody stools, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea
NeurologicalDepression, loss of movement, paralysis, seizures, weakness, convulsions, coma
HepaticBruising, bleeding and abnormal clotting, dark urine, lethargy, abdominal pain, excessive urination, fluid retention leading to swollen abdomens, jaundice, liver failure, death

Diagnosis of Cycad Palm

The diagnosis of cycad palm poisoning is based on various clinical signs. The toxins can be found in advanced blood diagnosis.

However, at the time of writing, no routine blood tests can detect these toxins.

Treatment of cycad palm poisoning is based on various therapies that aim to reduce toxin absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.

The use of various therapies such as liver protectants, stomach protectants, intravenous fluids, and anti-seizure medication may be prescribed by the veterinarian.

Liver damage can lead to increased bleeding, which may require blood transfusions and oxygen supplementation.

The dog may also need plasma transfusions, dextrose in its fluids, and vitamin K. There is no antidote designed to specifically combat cycad palm poisoning.

Check out, How to Prune Your Cycad Palm

Treating Cycad Palm Poisoning in Dogs

The vet will prescribe a treatment plan after conducting various tests and observing symptoms of cycad palm poisoning.

The first course of treatment is decontamination, where the vet will remove plant material or residue from the mouth, nose, and eye area. The dog’s fur will be thoroughly cleaned to remove toxins.

This is followed by vomiting to purge away the plant material. Medications such as antibiotics are administered to prevent an infection.

The dog will be administered IV treatment to pump it full of electrolytes and fluids. This is done to flush away the toxins in the kidneys and prevent fluid loss.

A blood transfusion may be done in case of liver damage.

Finally, the vet may decide to keep the dog overnight to observe its symptoms. The medical staff may also administer additional treatment if necessary.

Read: Kentia Palm Seedlings

Recovery from Cycad Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of cycad poisoning usually persist for about 72 hours. After this, recovery times will vary depending on the severity of cycad palm poisoning, but most dogs should get back to a good state of health within two weeks with medical intervention.

Limiting the dog’s activity and allowing it to get plenty of rest will reduce the recovery period even further.

In severe cases, it may be necessary to book weekly visits with a vet to treat complications and administer physiotherapy in dogs badly affected by the neurotoxins in cycad palms.     

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cycad Palms

Unfortunately, as toxic as cycad palms are, dogs find them particularly delicious and will feed on the leaves when given a chance.

This is why the onus is on the owner to keep the cycad leaves out of the dog’s sight and reach.

Let’s discuss a few things you can do.

Put the plant away

Ensure all cycad palms are kept where your dogs cannot reach them. Keep them in a closed space where dogs cannot enter.

Remind your children and guests that the plants should be kept out of the dog’s reach and not left on tables and countertops.

Teach the Dog to Leave it

Teaching your dog to leave the plants effectively prevents them from eating something that could be toxic to their health.

It’s also easy to teach various commands to your dog if you have a good bond with them. Remember, a well-trained dog is less likely to act out and go after your cycad palms.

So try teaching it the essential commands, including sit, stay, lay down, heel, and come here. This will improve the bond between you and your pet.

Train your pet to hang out in a specific room far removed from your cycad palms. Reward them a lot with their favorite treats when they are in that spot – eventually, your dog will never leave that place.

You can also train your dog to stay away from tempting food. Many free videos and instructions on the best way to train your dog.

Crate Train Your Dog

The safest way to ensure your dog doesn’t eat cycad palms when you’re not around to supervise them is to crate-train them.

Buy a sturdy crate for your furry friend that is large enough to stand up and turn around, making it feel comfortable.

The crate should provide a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they want to be left alone or when you don’t have time to watch them.

Provide the dog with plenty of treats, a stuffed chew toy, and its favorite blanket to make the crate feel like its very own personal den.

Keep Your Dog Occupied

Keep your dog occupied by giving it puzzle toys. These puzzle toys will entertain your dog and make it less likely to go after cycad palms.

Puzzle toys are usually hollow chew toys that can be filled with various treats that your dog will work for hours to reach.

Many veterinarians recommend puzzle toys to keep dogs busy. Try freezing the toy with peanut butter, which will require more effort from your dog to extract it from the toy.

You can also buy chew toys for your dog. This is because dogs have a tendency to gnaw on something.

You can buy chews at pet stores, just make sure to avoid options that may splinter and cause damage to the dog’s jaw.

Read: Kentia Palm Leaves Turning Brown

Cycad Palms are Everywhere

Cycad palms are just about everywhere – there are over 100 species that could be growing in your backyard without you knowing it!

Cycad palms are often very popular in landscaping. Your landlord may have planted it there, or the previous tenants of the home may have kept cycad palms.

Traveling with your pet to warmer climates will also expose them to cycad palms. They are usually found in the landscaping around hotels and houses that you might be staying in.

Finally, cycad palm seeds are often sold for planting and may be used to make jewelry – often without alerting you.

Cycad palm seeds are extremely toxic with high concentrations of toxins that could be lethal to your dog.

Every part of the plant is dangerous to your pet. It doesn’t take a huge quantity of plants to destroy a dog’s liver and cause significant illness leading to death.

Unfortunately, once the signs of cycad palm poisoning reach an advanced stage, the likelihood of recovery is poor.

More than 50% of cases of cycad palm poisoning will result in the death of dogs. This means you must act quickly if you’ve noticed that your dog has ingested cycad palms!

Wrapping Up

So should you give up looking after cycad palms altogether? Not necessarily. As long as you can cordon off your garden from the dog, you should be good to go.

It also helps to train your dog by providing it with a well-structured and disciplined environment. Seek medical treatment immediately if your pet comes in contact with cycad palms in California.

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