Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous if they Prick Your Skin?

Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous?

To start off with, they’re not really thorns. They’re a special kind of plant leaves called spines. And they’re a common sight for lots of cacti. Anyway, since this isn’t some academic write-up, let’s just stick with cactus thorns.

You may have done your best to avoid them, but then again, here you are. You’ve had to bear their sharp ends. Apart from the apparent punctured skin and the accompanying irritation, you’re wondering if there is any venom involved.

Are cactus spines poisonous? Are cactus thorns poisonous?

The straight-up answer is no. But depending on the type of cacti that came in contact with your skin, effects could be far-reaching than you can imagine. That means, spine stabs can cause varying degrees of severity from just causing minor wounds that heal with time to opening avenues to serious infections, especially when left lodged in the skin for long.

So, how do you tell apart the mild from the vile cactus spines?

Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous?
Macro shot of mini cactus @prof.michelematteucci

Cactus Thorns— Spikes and Glochids

Cactus thorns could be grouped into two, depending on their sizes.

For a larger part, they range from long to medium, well-attached to the plant and occur singly. For these ones, the only way of getting them off is by breaking them. And they’re the ones commonly referred to as spines.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the small, hair like structures occurring in clusters of hundreds. A slight nag at the plant will send them off. These are the glochids, common on prickly pears (Opuntia genus).

The impact of these two is inverse of their size. The bulk of their destruction lies in their individual build.

Spines have bare shafts which makes them a bit tender to the skin as compared to their smaller counterparts. Glochids, though small, can cause the most damage on your skin due to their barbed shafts and their sheer numbers. A single brush with a prickly pear could mean hundreds of them getting clamped into your skin. Ouch!

Don’t worry though. Depending on which cactus thorns you’ve had the unfortunate encounter with, the remedies below will go a long way.

Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous?

Dealing with Spine Stabs

If you ever experience getting pricked, spines are better cactus thorns to get pricked by. Yeah, there is the whole issue of discomfort but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll go through in an encounter with glochids.

For most spines, dislodging from the plant isn’t very common. This really makes things easy for you if you happen to bump into them. What you’ll be left with will be a few open holes on your skin. No big deal right? Yikes!

In that case, the standard procedure for taking care of an open wound applies. Keeping the injuries clean would suffice. That’s all you’ll need to do to dodge any infections. Further, protect the wound with bandages if you’d like (pro tip: fabric bandages work best, like these fabric bandages from Band-Aid)

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How to take out spines in your skin from a cactus

But in the case of a spine breaking off in your skin, you’ll need to take a different route.

The first thing is removing that spine piece. If it’s protruding, try pulling it out with a pair of tweezers. You can get a pair of these specialty cactus tweezers by Wittex Germany, or you can just use a general set surgical grade tweezers. This is an easy process. Make sure to position the tweezers perpendicular to your skin surface to avoid breaking the spine any further. If you succeed in getting the intruder out, keep the wound clean and watch it heal.

What if the spine is buried too deep in the skin? A sterilized needle will do a fantastic job of getting it out. Is anyone getting queasy yet?

Treat it as you would a splinter stuck in you. After that, as usual, keep it clean.

If the worse comes to worst and you’re unable to remove the spines, consider visiting a doctor or a first aid practitioner for professional assistance. They’ll definitely be in a better place to know what to do with them spines. Sometimes it’s easier to get someone else to pull them out too if you’re a bit queasy with these types of scenarios.

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12/07/2021 12:09 am GMT
Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous?

Glochids— How To Pull Them Out

These are the cactus thorns you should really fear. Yes, fear.

Remember the barbs? They grip on your muscle fibers tightly making it nearly impossible to bring them out. And of course, there is some serious accompanying irritation. They’re described as “barbed” for a reason, being closely similar to how barbed wire functions.

Before having a look at how to pull of the glochids, taking the following precautions:

  • Never try to pull out the barbed hairs with your teeth. It’s a no-brainer, actually. You might succeed in uprooting them from wherever they are but then you’re going to plant them in worse places – your tongue, gums, throat.
  •  Avoid scratching the part of incidence, whatsoever. Yeah, this is a gut reaction but for your own good, trying resisting it. It works negatively in two ways. First off, you’re going to drive the glochids further into the skin. Secondly, you could spread these little agents of discomfort to lots parts which isn’t a very good thing, it only makes your situation worse.

And now, time to pull them out. Use any of the following simple methods:

  1. Use a nylon pair of pantyhose to gently brush them off. Make sure the hand you’re using is clad in a strong pair of gardening gloves.
  2. Apply a generous amount of rubber cement on the impacted area using a piece of cotton. Allow some time for the cement to dry and pull up its edges carefully. It should come off with the glochids. Keep repeating this to remove as many of them as possible.
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If you can’t pull off any of the above successfully, arrange an appointment with a professional.

Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous?

Cactus thorns aren’t poisonous. But leaving them inside you could invite infections from other sources. Make sure to get rid of them ASAP.

But don’t get too stuck up with removing them yourself. If they keep resisting your efforts, let a medic help you out.


Whether you’re dealing with the long spines or the deceivingly-fine glochids, be sure to keep the resultant wound clean until it heals.


Did we clear up the myth about cactus thorns being poisonous? Let us know if you or someone else has been pricked by them and how you were able to get them out. Maybe let our members know how to get thorns or spines out from cacti in our Succulent City Plant Lounge.

Enjoyed learning about Are Cactus Thorns Poisonous? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about Rare Succulents You Wish You Knew About. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

7 Poisonous Succulents Harmful to Cats and Dogs

7 Succulents That Are Poisonous to Cats and Dogs

With so many different types of succulents, choosing the right one for your home can be overwhelming. There are a lot of questions to consider: how much natural light does your home have? Do you have time to follow a strict watering schedule? And perhaps most importantly, are succulents poisonous to cats and dogs?

While succulents are beautiful on the outside, beneath the surface of some succulents lie certain toxins that could make your pets sick.

According to veterinarian and author Dr David Gross, most animals are instinctually smart enough to avoid poisonous succulents. However, if your dogs and cats have a proven history of getting into things they shouldn’t — which, let’s face it, is what dogs and cats are best at — you’ll probably want to consider keeping these toxic succulents out of your home and away from your pets.

If you’re not sure whether or not a succulent is poisonous to cats and dogs, you can check the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to find out for sure. We’ve also rounded up some of the most popular succulents that don’t do well with pets.

1. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palm is Poisonous to Cats and Dogs
Sago Palm succulent plant. @theplantagenda

Though the sago palm might look like a palm tree, it’s actually considered a succulent. The sago palm is popular especially among beginner succulent lovers thanks to its general hardiness. But if you also have cats and dogs in your house, you may want to think twice about bringing one into your home.

According to the VCA Hospitals website, the sago palm is toxic all around, but especially its seeds which also happen to be easy to get to and eat. Sago palms have cycasin in them, which attacks the liver. The ASPCA reports that symptoms of cycasin poisoning include vomiting, increased thirst, and liver failure among others, and in worst cases even death. Symptoms generally appear within 15 minutes of ingestion, but may sometimes take up to a few hours to surface.

2. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is it poisonous to cats or dogs?
Inside the aloe vera succulent plant. @travel.laloo

While aloe vera might be known for its healing properties, the popular succulent can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Though the actual aloe gel isn’t toxic (it’s actually edible), according to veterinarian Dr Joe Musielak, pet lovers have to be wary of the sap inside aloe leaves.

“The latex of aloe is considered a purgative (a substance that empties the intestinal tract usually by inducing diarrhoea),” Dr Musielak said in an interview with Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital. “If an animal eats quite a bit of the plant (and it is very bad tasting), you could see mild stomach upset. Severe diarrhoea can be life-threatening because it can eventually cause dehydration.”

3. Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)

Pencil Cactus is it poisonous to cats or dogs?
Lady carrying Pencil Cactus. @thegoodrichwife

Thanks to the thorns that often accompany cacti, most animals learn pretty early on not to go near them. However, despite its name, the pencil cactus isn’t really a cactus and isn’t toxic because of thorns — in fact, it doesn’t even have any. Instead, cat and dog lovers should be wary of the sap that pencil cacti produce, which is a source of latex.

The ASPCA explains that a pencil cactus’ sap can cause vomiting. It’s also “been implicated as a potential carcinogen and, if it gets in the eyes, is said to cause temporary blindness,” according to the Associated Press.

4. Jade Plant (Crassula argentina)

Jada Plant is it poisonous to cats or dogs?
Tiny Jade Plant in mini planter. @morandocomplantas

While jade poisoning in animals has been shown to include symptoms like vomiting, depression, and lack of coordination, the ASPCA doesn’t know exactly why. While the source of toxicity is unknown as of now, according to Wag Walking, dogs specifically can’t digest plant material, so they tend to exhibit only mild to moderate symptoms.

Learn more about one of this succulent sister, The Crassula Ovata

5. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)

Panda Plant is it poisonous to cats or dogs?
The pretty panda plant. @smartplantapp

Despite sharing fuzzy features with your pet and bearing the name of an animal, panda plants are not pet-friendly. According to the ASPCA, these succulents produce insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can get stuck in your pet’s mouth and cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

Veterinarian Tina Wismer notes that the ingestion of these crystals typically isn’t fatal and can easily be treated with milk or water. “Prognosis is good and clinical signs usually resolve within 24 hours with no lasting effects,” she wrote for DVM360.

6. Snake Plant (Sansevieria tariffsciata)

Snake Plant is it poisonous to cats or dogs?
Baby Snake Plant. @heartmeadows

Snake plants are another beginner-friendly succulent. But thanks to the saponins they produce, they’re poisonous to both cats and dogs. According to the ASPCA, animals that eat plants that produce saponins might experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Further, Dr Gross explained to My Edmonds News that “some animals may rub against these plants and will develop, with repeated skin exposure, allergic dermatitis.”

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7. Kalanchoe

Vibrant Kalanchoe Plant. @rocketfarms_wholesale

Panda plants aren’t the only members of the Kalanchoe family that are toxic to cats and dogs. The Kalanchoe plant flowers produce Bufadienolides (extra points if you know how to pronounce that!). According to the ASPCA, this toxin can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and even an abnormal heart rate.


If you already have any of these succulents in your home, it’s important to make sure they’re out of reach from your pets. And while it may be hard to pinpoint exactly what makes your pet sick, if you suspect your animal has ingested any of these poisonous succulents it’s important to call your vet or reach out to the Animal Poison Control Center for help.

If you liked this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.

Are Succulents Poisonous to You or Your Pets?

Are Succulents Poisonous

As a plant and animal lover, you want a peaceful co-existence among your closest possessions – your succulents and pets. And even yourself and the kids. No brainer right?

You don’t want either of them to harm the other. But it could happen that your pet or kiddo takes a bite of one of your succulents. Does that succulent have any harmful component? Is that succulent poisonous?

Well, that depends on the specific succulent species that is involved. That is to say, most succulents are totally harmless. You’ll have a peace of mind if you’re keeping them in and around your home. But there are a few of them that will need more caution and quick action in case of ingestion. You’ll see them in a few.

Let’s continue on!

are succulents poisonous

Why Are Some Succulents Poisonous?

Toxicity is a defense mechanism for most plants against herbivores. They want to survive, just like any other living thing out there. At the same time, there are lots of hungry herbivores looking to gobble them up in an instant.

So they employ an array of ways to discourage as many of these animals as possible. They include spines and thorns, bad taste, disgusting scents and finally toxic compositions.

The toxins cause a certain amount of discomfort that serves to put off future bites. Some could be severe if not tended to accordingly.

are succulents poisonous

The Most Common Poisonous Succulents

Below is a short assortment of some of the most common succulents that may cause a risk for your pets and even children at home. If you have any of the below succulents be sure to keep watch for ingestion, in the odd case that you find yourself in this position, consult a professional.

Aloe Vera

Yeah, the most popular succulent apparently isn’t very safe for your pets. Darn it!

Despite its medical properties, the aloe doesn’t get along very well with especially cats and dogs.

The toxins contained in this darling of a succulent are saponins, anthraquinones, anthracene and glycosides. When ingested, they lead to

  • Vomiting
  • Red urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy.

Be sure to keep your cats and dogs safe from this plant at all times, we don’t want our precious pets do feel sick do we?

are succulents poisonous


Kalanchoes have a mild toxicity towards cats and dogs. Not as severe as aloe vera has with pets but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about these houseplants. You still need to keep a watchful eye.

They contain bufadienolides that cause diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, mouth irritation, drooling as well as severe weakness.

are succulents poisonous

Jade Plant—Crassula Ovata

Ingestion of the Jade plants in dogs and cats can lead to similar side effects from the plants mentioned earlier. Take a look below.

  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach upsets
  • Loss of coordination, leading to a sort of drunkenness
  • Dry-heaving
  • Lethargy

Once again, please refrain your pets and smaller children from being near the jade plant. Keep ’em safe!

are succulents poisonous


The Euphorbias contain a white latex sap that isn’t particularly soothing to be in contact with – for both humans and animals.

On the contact with the skin, the sap causes irritation. Rashes are imminent in humans. Think something similar to eczema, the side effects and causes of this sap is almost identical. The irritation is one of the most annoying things about it!

Other signs include stomach and oral irritation and vomiting.

are succulents poisonous

Snake Plant—Sansevieria Trifasciata

Probably the name has already invoked an uncomfortable feeling in you. In that case, it is perfectly fine as the snake plant contains saponins responsible for a number of reactions in cats and dogs.

Saponins cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy like many other poisonous plants to cats and dogs.

String of Pearls

Another aesthetic asset that can be quite rough to you or your pets. The string of pearls has a sap that causes lifelessness, vomiting, skin irritation and diarrhea.

Did you say lifelessness? Yes. So be extra careful about this plant being around your loved ones, little animal friends included.

are succulents poisonous

Additional Resources on Poisonous Succulents

Those are some of common potentially harmful succulents around. But it is in no way exhaustive. There is a whole lot of trusted bodies that can offer more information about the succulents you have questions about as far as toxicity is concerned. Be sure to check them out.

  • California Poison Control System
  • Pet Poison Help Line
  • USDA Poisonous Plant Research
  • The UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Toxic Plant Garden

What to Do if You Suspect Poisoning

In the unfortunate event that a pet of yours has taken a bite off of these not-so friendly succulents, be quick in whatever action you go for – you’ll see that below.

Observe your pets for signs of any stem and leaf pieces on the coats and the mouth area and wash them off to prevent any further discomfort. Now, call up any of the following

  • Local veterinary
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre (888-426-4435)
  • Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661)

Whomever you decide to call, be sure to know exactly the plant ingested to receive explicit help.

are succulents poisonous

How to Keep Your Pets Away from Poisonous Succulents

You can always be ahead of situations by taking a few precautions.

To make things easier, you may choose to completely avoid toxic succulents. You won’t have to worry about anything that way.

But if you can’t help it, here are a few general steps you can take to avert trouble

  • Consider spraying your succulents with Bitter Apple. Don’t worry, it’s completely harmless to both the succulent and your pets. It just deters your pets from snacking on the plants.
  • Provide your pets with an alternative vegetation to chew on. Naturally cats and dogs want to eat a bit of green every now and then in search of roughage that is so needed in digestion. Pet grass is great for this. That should hopefully keep them busy.
  • Keep your pets entertained by giving them attention and playing with them whenever you can. Boredom is a sure incitement for them to think about eating your succulents.
  • You can also barricade your plants using things like old bird cages and terrariums. If the plants are in a particular room, be sure to lock it up.
  • Keep the plants in elevated places. This really helps for small pets and children. Well, this is debatable for a cat.
  • And finally, be sure to pick up any flying pieces of plants from around the house.

Don’t forget to look out for yourself too. Always have protective clothing to guard against some saps that are notorious for dermatitis.

are succulents poisonous

Have any bonus tips or stories you’d like to share about succulent care? Join our exclusive Facebook Group, Succulent City Plant Lounge, and join in on the conversations!

While you’re at it, take a look at our Instagram for some succulent ~inspiration~!

Enjoyed learning about if Are Succulents Poisonous? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about Rare Succulents You Wish You Knew About. With this ebook you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Happy planting!