A bewildering 200-plus genera of palm trees exist, encompassing about 2,780 species. The majority of palms (Arecaceae) are found in tropical, subtropical and warm climates, and some species produce fruit, including the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) and acai palm (Euterpe oleracea). The fruits range from healthful, such as the acai berry, to dangerous for humans and animals to consume.
Some palm berries, such as those produced by the sago palm and betel nut palm, are toxic to pets.
Edible Palm Fruits
Palm trees in the U.S. that produce berries include the Guadalupe fan palm (Brahea edulis), which grows in parts of California and has black berries with a sweet taste similar to that of dates. The jelly palm (Butia capitata Becc.), also found in California, Florida and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, delivers bite-sized yellow or orange fruits that hang from the tree in large sprays. The fruit flavor resembles apricots or a pineapple-banana mixture. The fruit of these common palms can be eaten by both humans and dogs with complete safety.
The Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) grows further north in cooler climates and has golf-ball sized yellow oval fruits that hang down in bunches and are sweet and fleshy and taste similar to a coconut, and the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) has berry-like, small fruits which are brownish-black. These berries each contain a single seed and have a sweet pulp that tastes similar to butterscotch or dates; these are also safe for humans and dogs to eat.
Poisonous Palm Varieties
The leaves and fruit of the sago palm (Cycas revoluta) are poisonous to dogs and can cause vomiting, melena (blood in stool), increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage and failure, and possibly death.
The areca, or betel nut, palm (Dypsis lutescens), also known as golden butterfly palm, cane palm, golden feather palm and yellow palm, although not considered toxic, will make a dog sick if ingested in any quantity. This palm produces fruit of a fibrous orange- or red-colored globe.
Good for Humans, Not Dogs
The fruit of many palm trees is not only edible but delicious, and humans love to eat them. If your dog likes to eat whatever you eat, use common sense when evaluating whether the same food is good for the dog or not, and, if so, how much. While you may be able to consume a whole plate full of fruit, the same meal is likely to give your dog diarrhea and may cause vomiting and painful cramps.
So the question of berries from palm trees being "bad" for your dog takes on a new meaning. Berries that may be fine in small quantities may also be a food that the dog is not accustomed to ingesting in large amounts. In addition, if the dog eats the berries when they are not completely ripe, it may also cause stomach problems.
If Your Dog Gets Sick
If your dog develops signs of stomach upset and you suspect it may have eaten the fruit of a palm or any other plant that is not safe for dogs, contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals National Animal Poison Control Center, which is a nonprofit 24-hour emergency consulting service.
- American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control – Sago Palm
- Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry: Betel Nut Palm
- American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control
- Cal Poly Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute: Chilean Fan Palm
- Cal Poly Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute: California Fan Palm
- University of Florida Entomology & Nematology Department: Insects and Other Animals Associated With Palms (Arecaceae)
- Cal Poly Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute: Coconut Palm
- University of Texas at El Paso: Herbal Safety: Açaí
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.