Sago Palms and snakes top summertime hazards for pets

  • Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The lazy days of summer may be here, but for our pets, this time of year is particularly hazardous when it comes to Sago Palms and snakes.

The emergency and critical care veterinarians at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center (www.charlestonvrc.com) have identified these two things at the top hazards to pets this year, based on cases coming through the emergency room at the facility.

Kristin Welch, DVM, DACVECC (Emergency and Critical Care) says just one Sago Palm seed can create extreme toxicity in pets and Sago Palm toxicity has a 30 percent mortality rate in dogs and cats. Sago Palms are ubiquitous in the Charleston landscape, and most pet owners aren’t aware what can happen if their pet ingests any part of the plant. The seeds are most toxic and can cause immediate vomiting, diarrhea and thirst after being eaten.

Dr. Welch and her team treated Bailey, a 3½ year old male Miniature Pinscher for Sago Palm seed ingestion. Bailey chewed leaves and seeds and presented with severe vomiting and failure of his blood clotting system. He was treated immediately with a combination of medications to prevent further toxin absorption from the GI tract and plasma transfusions to prevent more severe bleeding complications. He required liver support medications and antacids for nearly two months as his liver function recovered and thankfully he has made a near full recovery.

South Carolina is home to six species of venomous snakes, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Dogs and cats are both at risk, although cats tend to be more resistant to snake venom than dogs. In both types of pets, the most common bite areas are the face, tongue, eyes and neck. CVRC recently treated Melissa Rodger’s puppy, named Kevin. He was nosing underneath a bush when a foot-long snake bit him in the nose and face. Dr. Welch says snake bites can cause swelling, shock, damage tissues and affect the pet’s blood cells and clotting ability. Immediate symptoms include puncture wounds, swelling, drooling, pain or panting. More than likely, your pet will be hospitalized for 12-48 hours for intravenous fluids, pain medications and possibly antivenom therapy.

In either a Sago Palm ingestion or a snake bite, getting veterinary care immediately is critical. To protect your pet from both Sago Palms and rattlesnakes, CVRC offers these tips:

Remove any Sago Palms from your yard if you dogs or have cats with outdoor access.

Alternately, a fence can be placed around the palms but remember that wind and wildlife can circulate the seeds around the area.

When purchasing new plants at garden centers, it is always a good idea to verify that you are not purchasing a Sago Palm. Many plants are just marked “palm.” Ask so you can clarify what you’re buying.

To avoid snakes, do not let your pet explore underbrush, under bushes and landscaping, rocky areas and tall grasses.

Keep your pet on a leash and do not let it run free to explore. Supervise at all times.

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