Ouch! Removing Cactus Needles From Your Dog


Learn how to remove cactus needles from dogs, and when to leave this task to the professionals.

Different types of cacti can grow all over the world, and certain areas of North America have high concentrations of the plant. Unfortunately for us, our four-legged friends can get the spines (needles) of cacti stuck in their eyes, mouth, feet, ears and numerous other places on the body.

The first thought on the sight of a needle-covered dog will have you running for the tweezers, but there are some spines you should leave for the professionals.

What You Need

A cactus spine should be treated as a puncture wound. The spines enter the skin and create an opening for bacteria. Before you start the removal process (if doing it yourself), gather some antibiotic ointment along with your removal tool of choice. Some use tweezers, while others who have hunting dogs prefer hemostats (aff).

We also recommend that you start with a coarse comb to remove loose spines. Removed spines can cause blood to spurt out of the entry point; a styptic stick and gauze can be handy in case you run into this problem.

Removing Cactus Needles From Your Dog

Your pet’s first reaction may be to try and remove the spines with her mouth or by kicking her legs. The spines can become dislodged from the animal and stick into your skin, so keeping your pet calm and steady is important.

If you have someone who can help you, it will be easier to remove the spines. Your pet might also salivate or foam at the mouth if spines have penetrated that area.

Use the comb to remove any loose spines from the dog’s coat. The individual spines that remain should be removed using tweezers or forceps by pulling in the direction of the fur growth. Some spines may have been stuck in the skin at a sharp angle that does not follow the direction of the fur, and you will want to remove these as gently as possible without twisting or forcing the spine in the direction of the fur.

As you remove the spines, clean off any blood and stop bleeding at the entry point. If the dog has spines in different areas of the body, apply antibiotic ointment before moving on to another section. You may find it hard to pull out the spines or have a difficult time keeping your pet steady or calm. Depending on where a spine is stuck, loosening or removing the spine may cause excessive or continuous bleeding. In either instance, be prepared to visit your veterinarian’s office or local animal emergency room for further care and removal.


Ouch! Cactus attack!

In the Eye

If your dog was unfortunate enough to get a cactus spine in her eye, it’s best to leave the removal to the professionals. Not all eye punctures can require surgery, but visible spines and micro spines can be present in the eye and require extreme care upon removal.

Some spines may not need to be removed, but this should be determined by your veterinarian. Cactus spines are usually removed from dogs under general anesthesia; reconstructive surgery or grafts might also be necessary.

After removal and/or treatment, check the entry points for infection and apply antibiotic ointment as needed. If the area becomes swollen, discharges and does not improve, make an appointment to see your vet. Let’s hope your dog will learn to avoid a cactus in the future and keep you from being on pins and needles!

Photos: Zabowski (top), Jared/Flickr

From Around the Web

  • http://lapcats.wordpress.com/ Debbie

    Will keep this handy – neighbors have cactus and we have 2 lab mixes! Thank you!

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      No problem, Debbie! It’s one of those things to file away for when the time comes. :)