Golden retriever learns painful lesson about cactus

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A friendly and lively golden retriever named Kobe had only been outside a few minutes when he learned an essential rule of Arizona dog life: Stay away from cholla cactus.

Kobe with cactus spines

Kobe with cactus spines

Kobe wound up with more than 100 cactus spines in his nose, paws and other parts of his body, but the 5-year-old, 90-pound dog is doing much better thanks to treatment he received at Emergency Animal Clinic in Scottsdale.

“He had quite a few in his feet, in his face and in the roof of his mouth,” said Dr. Kristi Burns, who treated Kobe at Scottsdale’s Emergency Animal Clinic, which is a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital. But as excruciating as that sounds, Kobe is now back home and on the mend.

Kobe’s experience isn’t uncommon in places where cholla cactus are plentiful. It’s a reminder that pet owners need to be careful around the beautiful, if pain-inducing, plants.

Steve Lamont was home in the North Scottsdale area when the family’s Pomeranian puppy got out, along with Kobe. Kobe is a good dog who obeys commands, so Lamont went after the puppy first. But at some point in the confusion, Kobe charged into a cholla.

“Before you know it, he had needles everywhere,” Lamont said. “They were in his tongue, they were in his face, they were in his tail.”

Cholla cacti, sometimes known as “jumping cactus,” are renowned for the way their needle-like spines stick into skin – yours as well as that of your pets. Burns said dogs wind up with spines in their mouths, because they try to pull them out with their teeth.

Lamont removed several of Kobe’s spines with a pair of kitchen tongs, but eventually realized he was going to need help. A neighbor recommended Emergency Animal Clinic, which has five Phoenix-area hospitals that are open 24 hours a day to handle pet emergencies.

Burns said Kobe should recover fully, and added that his case is not the worst she has seen. Just a couple weeks earlier, she treated another dog with perhaps a thousand spines – who also is recovering well.

Burns recommends dog owners remove the cacti from their backyards and be extremely cautious in places where they grow. And definitely seek veterinary care if your dog also tangles with a cholla.

Kobe and family

Kobe and family

Kobe with cactus spines

Kobe with cactus spines

The Emergency Animal Clinic staff removed plenty of cactus needles from Kobe's paws

The Emergency Animal Clinic staff removed plenty of cactus spines from Kobe’s paws