Media Release

Newsroom Releases 2012 January Cycads are not a dog’s best friend

13/1/2012
Cycads are not a dog's best friend
JCU is warning dog owners that their pets may suffer severe poisoning if they eat the common household cycad plant.

First published 13 January, 2012

James Cook University is warning dog owners that their pets may suffer severe poisoning if they eat the common household cycad plant.

This follows the recent death of a young dog from liver failure after eating the leaves and stem of a cycad, also known as sago palm.

Penny, an eight-month old cross-breed dog, was brought to JCU’s Veterinary Emergency Centre in Townsville on Christmas Eve after a sudden onset of vomiting and lethargy.

Nearly two weeks of intensive therapy in the JCU Veterinary Emergency Centre’s 24-hour intensive care unit could not save her and Penny died from severe liver failure.

Dr Philip Judge, Senior Lecturer in veterinary emergency and critical care at JCU, said all parts of the plant are considered extremely poisonous, and even eating as little as two seeds could be enough to kill a dog.

“The leaves are apparently quite attractive-smelling to dogs, making accidental ingestion likely, with initial symptoms of poisoning usually being vomiting, dehydration and lethargy,” Dr Judge said.

“Using appropriate treatment with intravenous fluid therapy and medications, the symptoms often subside within 24 to 48 hours or so – only to be replaced by the development of severe liver damage that could result in liver failure and death within seven to 14 days.”

He said published mortality rates for dogs with cycad poisoning of between 38 and 60 per cent emphasised how serious the disease was to treat, especially once liver failure takes hold.

Dr Judge suggested the following precautions for pet owners:

* if possible, have cycads kept away from areas where dogs are kept unsupervised - or alternatively, do not allow dogs to roam free in areas where cycads are planted

* remove any fallen seeds/nuts to reduce the chances of their being eaten

* remove any loose vegetation from cycad plants and dispose of them in green waste to reduce the chances of this vegetation being eaten

* if you see your dog eating a cycad plant, contact your veterinarian immediately for first aid advice.

Commonly sold in home and garden centres, cycads are hardy plants that require little care, making them seem ideal for dry tropical areas like Townsville.

“Penny’s illness should be a warning to all dog owners in the North about the plant,” Dr Judge said.

For more information or an interview contact: Dr Philip Judge – Phone (07) 4781 5444