Amy Kat of Paradise Hills was stunned when she came home to find her one-year-old great Dane-mix, Remi, injured and her maltipoo, Koopa, sick.
"I noticed Remi had sap on his fur, when I wiped it off his skin rolled off with it," Kat recalled. "My little one, Koopa, was laying on the ground with four piles of vomit around him. He was unresponsive."
Terrified, Kat said she drove both her dogs to an emergency pet service in Chula Vista. The vet told her the dogs were sick from one of her backyard succulents, known as a pencil cactus.
The pencil cactus, or Euphorbia tirucalli, is toxic to humans, dogs, and cats worldwide and can cause serious intestinal and skin injury, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Some people refer to the plants as "sticks of fire." They can be small enough to fit in a container or tree-sized.
“This plant's white milky sap is toxic to pets and humans. 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,” stated Laura Eubanks, a succulent expert in San Diego.
Remi was chemically burned on 30 percent of his body by the pencil cactus, according to Kat. Her other dog, Koopa, ingested part of the plant, which is why he was vomiting.
Kat said both of her dogs are now doing better two weeks later and seem to be in good health. Remi is still on medication.
"They have such an unbreakable spirit," said Kat.
Kat is urging others to check for the plant in their backyards. She said she recently moved into her home, and the plants were put there by the previous homeowner.
"I checked for typical pointy plants and things that might hurt them, but I had no idea that pencil cactus could make them sick," said Kat. "I almost lost both my boys in one night."
If the plant is ingested, some signs to look out for are stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
Kat created a GoFundMe page to help raise money to pay for her dogs’ veterinary bills and medicine.