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Dog dies after eating deadly sago palm

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A Southampton couple mourning the loss of their dog has warned: this plant can kill.

A West Highlands Terrier owned by Keith and Pat Jones died after chewing seeds from a sago palm, a decorative tree said to be increasingly popular in Bermuda. “Most people have no idea they're so dangerous,” said Mrs Jones, who was herself unaware until both her dogs fell violently ill over the weekend.

She brought along Roxy and one-year-old Bella to a Friday morning art group meeting in a rectory garden near her home. Both “Westies” were tied to a tree while she painted.

“Towards the end of the session, one of the women said the dogs were chewing something some red-coloured wood. I didn't know I was sitting next to a plant that was lethal.”

The two animals were both sick by that afternoon.

That night, Mrs Jones said: “I came home after a meal. The dogs were sleeping. I lifted Bella up and she couldn't stand, just flopped, and the other was lying on the sofa. I was really freaked out at this point, and I called Ettrick Animal Hospital.”

She was told to bring the dogs immediately to the surgery. One was perking up, she said, while the younger looked increasingly worse.

Ettrick vets treated the dogs for poisoning, and asked if any medications might have been lying around the home.

It was only the next morning, after phoning the rectory, that she learned the cause.

“I was given the Latin name of the plant. I Googled it and it came right up as the sago palm, which is highly toxic.”

The sago cycad Cycas revoluta contains a toxin, cycasin, which can easily cause liver or nerve damage, or death.

Returning to the clinic with her husband that Sunday, Mrs Jones was told that Bella's chances of pulling through were now very low.

“In a way, the spirit had gone out of her,” she said. The couple were discussing putting their pet to sleep, when Bella's heart slowed and then stopped.

She said: “I didn't understand before how attached you can become to pets, how you can really open your heart. There's no way I would have sat near that plant if I had known.”

Now they want to get the word out: the sago's palm-like crown and red seeds are all potentially lethal.

Invisible Fencing owner Rudi Zimmerer said sago poisoning was on a par with Bermuda's other notorious dog-killer, the toad, which secretes a powerful toxin.

He said: “Over the years, I've known of three dogs that have died from sago palm, and another few that have barely made it they've had to get lengthy and expensive medical treatment as a result.”

Useful web link: www.snopes.com.

'Bella' a West Highlands Terrier owned by Keith and Pat Jones
The Sago Palm tree

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Published March 16, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 16, 2011 at 10:41 am)

Dog dies after eating deadly sago palm

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