South Carolina

Common SC plant deadly to dogs

Sago palm
Sago palm

A North Myrtle Beach family recently lost one of their dogs to liver failure and nearly had another one die of the same ailment after the two animals ate from a Sago Palm tree in their backyard, the couple told Myrtle Beach TV station WMBF.

Taylor and Tiffany Smith's dog Walter died of liver failure in December after eating part of the plant. Two weeks ago, the Smiths' dog Wilbur nearly died of liver failure after eating a piece of a new palm frond growing out of the tree, according to the WMBF report.

The entire Sago Palm plant is poisonous to dogs, but the seeds of the plant are the most lethal part, said Marikay Campbell, a veterinarian with Port Royal Veterinary Hospital. The decorative plant is commonly used in yards all over South Carolina, but most people don't know about its toxicity to dogs, Campbell said.

Two dogs from the Beaufort area died last year from ingesting pieces of the plant, despite care at Port Royal and the Charleston Veterinary Hospital, Campbell said.

In one of the cases, the owners knew about the toxic plant, but didn't think of it as a cause for their dog's illness until it was too late. In the other instance, the owners had no idea the plant was deadly, Campbell said.

The Smiths too did not know the palm was toxic until they did a Google search. Taylor Smith said he removed the plant from his yard the night Wilbur got sick.

Campbell said most common decorative plants, such as oleanders, azaleas, and poinsettias, are toxic to dogs and can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Campbell said the list of toxic plants on the website of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is the best resource to see what decorative plants are dangerous.

Dogs can be around the plants for years with no issues, but it takes only one impulse to eat the plant for it to be deadly, she said.

"It's something that scares me to see in yards," Campbell said. "It's so common as a decorative thing, but most people don't know it is poisonous."