Are Cactus Spines Poisonous?
Are your Kids & Pets Safe?

A cactus is popular for its long sharp spines. Have you been wondering about whether or not they're poisonous? We've got just the answer!

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Kelly Adams

September 05, 2021

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Cacti are often found with sharp spines on their stems in the wild. You might be interested to know that these spines are actually modified leaves. The only question that remains is, are they poisonous?

Cactus spines aren’t poisonous. However, they can harm tissues of the body if they find a way to go deep below the skin. In such cases, they can cause bruises and fatally harm the tissues. 

An image of a ball cactus with spines

Are Cactus Spines Poisonous?

No, cactus spines aren’t poisonous. However, they can cause damage to tissues and cause bleeding if they pierce the skin deep enough.

Are Kids and Pets Safe?

Cactus spines aren’t poisonous to humans, dogs and cats. Cactus spines pose a threat only if your child or pet has a large number of spines stuck to their skin. In such a situation, you will need to take them to the hospital immediately. 

However, those cacti that fall under the euphorbia genus can be poisonous to cats and dogs.

Types of Cactus Spines

A range of different cactus spines exist such as glochids, hooked spines and flattened spines.

1. Glochids

An image of Prickly Pear cactus

These spines resemble strands of hair bundled together. They can easily detach themselves from the cactus stem and stick to the skin. These spines cause skin irritation and if they get caught in a wound, they can be difficult to remove.

These spines often do not cause an immediate reaction but when they do, it can be very painful. Glochids cause a burning sensation and redness around the affected area on the skin. 


Use tweezers to remove long cactus spines

If the bristles penetrate the skin deep enough, they can allow bacteria and germs to enter the wound site. This can result in infections. One of such is sabra dermatitis. 

Sabra dermatitis is caused by contact with glochids. Such a contact often produces a reaction pattern on the affected area. This type of skin condition affects farmers the most since they have to pick prickly pears. 

How to Remove Glochids?

Glochids need to be removed very carefully from the skin. Pulling out individual strands with your fingers can result in a skin infection. Sucking out the spines is also not recommended since they can stick to your tongue. 

An adhesive plaster or the use of melted wax can help remove these spines. However, tweezing is considered to be the most effective method in removing glochids. 

The best way to remove them is to first use tweezers and then glue to get rid of the remaining smaller spines trapped in the skin. 


DO not use your teeth to remove spines such as glochids! they can end up in your throat!

2. Hooked spines

An image of a cactus in a white compact container

The Fishhook cactus has hooked spines that resemble fishhooks. The locals of Americas even used the spines as fishhooks. These spines are one of the most difficult to remove from the skin. 

The Fishhook cactus belongs to the Cactaceae family of flowering plants. It is native to North America including Mexico. Some states of South America such as Venezuela have a large distribution as well.

These spines often break when you try to remove them from the skin directly. Let us look at how you can safely remove them.


Wash the affected area with lukewarm water and avoid rubbing it if it starts itching

How to Remove Hooked spines

You will need to cut part of the spines attached to the cactus stem with a pair of scissors. The spines stuck in your skin will need to be removed with tweezers. 


Don't poke around your skin with tweezers or needles if you can't find the spines! This will do more damage

You will have to wash the affected area with warm water and soak it in to relieve pain and irritation. You might need to be careful with not removing the spines with your teeth. Doing so can result in you swallowing the spines. 

3. Flattened spines

An image of a cactus in a unique planter

Flattened spines such as those of the Paper spine cactus do not generally pose a threat. They are softer to touch and cannot stick to the skin like the spines of the fishhook cactus or glochids. 

The Paper Spine cactus is considered to be non-toxic to pets. However, you should still keep your pets away from cacti stems. Consuming any part of a cactus can cause discomfort and indigestion. 

Whatever you do just don’t use your mouth to ever pull out cactus spines, especially when you’re out in the wild. Doing so will not only cause you physical discomfort but also ruin your camping trip. 


We have looked at whether or not cactus spines are poisonous and the type of spines. The short answer is no. Types of cactus spines include hooked spines, flattened spines and glochids which are barbed spines. 

If you liked reading about cacti, head over to read more about what a cactus tastes like.

What does Cactus taste like? I really enjoyed it!

Have you ever tried to eat a cactus? Well, you would want to eat one after you get to know what they taste like!

Kelly Adams Picture

By Kelly Adams

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Kelly and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Kelly Adams Picture

Kelly Adams

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Kelly and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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