If you look around your neighborhood, you’ll most likely see sago palms. Although these plants look harmless, as one local dog mom found out, they are extremely toxic and can kill your dog.
One Monday earlier this month, Nancy DeMartini took her dog, Piper, on a walk around her neighborhood. Piper was a normal black lab puppy, playing fetch and running around.
By Tuesday morning, Piper started vomiting and having diarrhea.
A local vet, told DeMartini it was just a stomach bug but Piper had stopped eating, was very fatigued and had continued vomiting and diarrhea.
“I’ve seen her with a stomach bug before and she never got like that,” DeMartini said.
On Friday night, Piper couldn’t move and began having tremors.
DeMartini rushed Piper to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Niceville who suspected Piper had a blockage somewhere or had been poisoned so they kept Piper for observation.
Around 2 a.m. Saturday morning, the vet called DeMartini and told her Piper needed emergency surgery.
“I asked them if they were sure it couldn’t wait until morning, it was already $3,000 to drop her off and the surgery was an additional $3,500,” Demartini said. “But what was I gonna do, let my dog die?”
During the surgery, the vet discovered Piper’s GI tract was extremely inflamed which eventually led them to the conclusion that it was sago palm poisoning.
DeMartini had never heard of that plant or how toxic it was to dogs. “I went home from the ICU and as soon as I turned into my housing complex, I realized that they’re everywhere.”
“The only treatment for sago palm poisoning is really aggressive fluid therapy and liver support,” Stacey Wiggins, a DVM at Barry Veterinary said. “There is no cure necessarily, we just try to flush out the system as much as possible to get the toxin out.”
Piper started receiving liver enzymes and plasma transfusions and slowly began to recover. By Monday, Piper was able to go home and continue outpatient therapy.
After encouragement from Facebook friends, DeMartini started a GoFundMe to help with the $7,700 in veterinary bills and to bring awareness about the sago palm.
“I was talking to other dog owners and they weren’t aware of it either,” DeMartini said. “It’s just scary how this plant that can kill your dog is everywhere around here.”
Dr. Stephen Davis of the Niceville Emergency Veterinary clinic said he sees dogs with sago palm poisoning weekly and they usually only have a 10-20 percent chance of survival.
“As bad as she was, she’s mild compared to most of them,” Davis said about Piper’s case. “Overall things are looking promising and like she’s gonna be in that small percentile that’s actually gonna be OK.”