Despite how pretty they are, it is a fact that not all plants and flowers are safe around our pets. Take Euphorbia tirucalli, for instance. Through the years, it has become one of the trendiest succulent plants that many people loved to use as an indoor plant and in outdoor landscaping because of its unique structure and easy-care nature. It looks fantastic in miniature succulent arrangements and equally stunning when grown as a tree.
However, if you have a dog, a cat, or a curious baby at home, steer clear of this plant at all cost. Here’s why.
Pups Hurt From Plant Sap
Amy Kat’s mouth and heart fell when she came home to see her two beautiful dogs, Remi (a one-year-old great Dane mix pup) and Koopa (a Maltipoo), severely sick and injured. According to Kat, Koopa was almost unconscious on the ground covered in a pile of his own vomit and Remi had a milky plant sap on his fur. When she tried to wipe it off, the skin came off to her horror. She wasted no time and immediately took the poor pups to the nearest emergency pet service.
Pencil Cactus, aka, Euphorbia tirucalli
At the vet, Kat was told that the chemical burn and intestinal disorder was caused by a succulent plant that commonly grows in the backyard: the Euphorbia tirucalli. Otherwise known as pencil cactus, firestick pencil cactus, sticks on fire, or milk bush, this Euphorbia succulent is classified by Pet Poison Hotline as mild to moderately toxic to cats, dogs, and even humans.
Apparently, exposure to the plant’s sap, which is what happened to Remi and Koopa, have serious consequences. “If sap makes contact with the skin, a painful rash develops at the point of contact. If the sap gets in the eyes, it can cause temporary blindness,” Laura Eubanks, a succulent expert in San Diego, told NBC.
Fortunately, Kat’s dogs have survived the gruesome incident, which happened in 2017. "They have such an unbreakable spirit," she remarked.
Plant Safety Tip for Pet Parents
Kat has just moved in with her dogs to the new place where they got exposed to the pencil cactus, which had been planted in the yard by the previous owner. "I checked for typical pointy plants and things that might hurt them, but I had no idea that pencil cactus could make them sick. I almost lost both my boys in one night," she recalled.
That being said, we highly recommend researching and learning all the poisonous plants, flowers, and other materials that could be harmful to your pet. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) is an excellent resource with a complete database full of helpful information on this subject.
Avoid All Euphorbia Species
Based on the ASPCA, all Euphorbia species come with toxic sap or latex that is made out of nature-occurring chemicals (complex diterpenoid euphorbol esters and steroidal saponins) that is extremely irritating to both pets and humans, especially when ingested.
Aside from the pencil cactus, it is wise to take proactive steps and do not let your pets be exposed to the following:
- Euphorbia milii - Crown of thorns
- E. myrsinites - Creeping spurge
- E. marginata - Snow on the mountain
- E. esula - Leafy spurge
While the poinsettia plant is also a member of the Euphorbia family, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University assures that it only contains a minimal level of chemicals and is fairly harmless to dogs and cats.
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