News 5 Investigates: What’s poisoning puppies

Mobile County
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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — If you’ve had a  puppy, you know that they put everything in their mouths. Nothing is safe…your shoes…your furniture…even your flower beds. One family on Dog River had no idea that something growing in their yard would poison their puppy with just one bite.

Rod and Courtenay Rocconi purchased Sandy as a Christmas present for their three children. The kids had been asking for a puppy for years.  Courtenay finally gave in and surprised the kids with Sandy, a precious little blond-colored Goldendoodle.

“She was the sweetest thing. Our older dog, Honey, is almost twelve, so it’s been a long time since we’ve had a puppy,” Courtenay said.

Like all puppies, Sandy chewed on everything.  On a beautiful afternoon in January, the Rocconi’s let her play outside in their fenced-in yard.  An hour after she was outside, she started getting sick.

“I knew she had eaten something. I thought it was a stick, leaf, or something, ” Courtenay said.

Unfortunately, it was much worse. It was a Sago Palm seed. It looks a lot like a fig.  Sandy just ate one bite but had to be rushed to the emergency vet. She was given a 50/50 chance to live, but unfortunately, she died a month later. The Sago Palm poisoned her.

Dr. Teresa Williams at Oasis Veterinary Clinic says that Sago Palms are the number one most toxic plant for dogs, but many pet owners aren’t aware. The plants thrive in our Gulf Coast environment. She says just one bite of any part of the plant can kill a puppy. That includes the leaves, bark, or seeds. For a month, Dr. Williams tried everything to decontaminate Sandy, but nothing worked.”The toxin in the Sago attacks the liver. What happened to Sandy is that it killed most of the cells in the liver. The dogs start bleeding out,” Dr. WIlliams said.

As a result of Sandy’s death, Dr. Williams gives pet owners a puppy packet with a list of the most toxic plants for dogs. They include:

  • Sago Palms
  • Lilies of any kind
  • Cariac Glycoside-containing plants like
  • Philodendron or Elephant Ears
  • Corn plant/Dragon Tree
  • Blue-Green Algae.

The Rocconis have since removed all the Sago Palms from their front and back yards. They have gotten a new puppy, Daisy, but she doesn’t have free range of the yard. The Sago Palms drop seeds that burrow into the ground and can sprout months later. They don’t want Daisy to find any of them.  They want to emphasize to people that even if you rip out a Sago, the seeds can sprout out of the ground for months. You have to carefully watch your puppy!

The Rocconis are sharing Sandy’s story because they believe that many pet owners aren’t aware that Sago Palms are so toxic to dogs. They never would have let Sandy roam their yard if they had known they had something deadly growing right in front of their eyes.

“We don’t want any other family to go through this. This has been my purpose…to prevent another family from going through something so hard.  It was so tragic for our family,” Courtenay said.

If you have Sago Palms in your yard and you have a dog?  Courtenay recommends ripping them out, and don’t wait.


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