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Are Schefflera Plants Poisonous? (Dogs, Cats & Other Animals)

Schefflera or umbrella plants are popular among the houseplant community due to their distinctive foliage. A common problem that worries the growers is the toxicity of this plant.

As per studies conducted, Schefflera can be mild to severely toxic. It contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can cause serious complications among your pets if ingested. Some signs to watch for are oral pain, drooling, vomiting, pawing at the mouth, and reduced appetite.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the toxicity of your Schefflera plant and share precautions on how to prevent this problem and what should be done if this situation arises.

So keep reading to know more.

Schefflera with cat

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Are Schefflera toxic to pets?

According to ASPCA, Schefflera is toxic to pets.

The umbrella plant is toxic for cats, dogs, birds, and small animals.

Consuming any parts of this plant can cause several disorders in your pets like vomiting, stomach irritation, and drooling, leading to pain in the oral region and difficulty swallowing.

Plants have no way to protect themselves other than producing chemicals that make them poisonous and protect them from attacks from wild animals.

The Schefflera plant produces a form of insoluble crystal known as calcium oxalate, which acts as a shield to protect them from bugs and animals.

Biting any parts of this plant leads to the sharp calcium oxalate crystals penetrating the oral mucosa and the pharynx, which penetrates the tissue causing burning and itching and severe pain in the mouth and the GI tract.

So even if your pet nibbles a leaf or any part of the plant, it can cause intense burning in the mouth and digestive tract, tongue, and lips, difficulty in swallowing, drooling constantly, and breathing difficulties.

The sap of Schefflera can cause skin irritation and burnings too.

Though cases of mass consumption are extremely rare due to the bitter taste of the plant, it can result in serious accidents like cardiac abnormalities, renal failure, difficulty in breathing, and dilated pupils.

How poisonous is a Schefflera plant?

The toxicity level of the Schefflera plant varies according to its variants.

Some of the variants are mildly toxic to pets, whereas some of the variants of this plant are highly toxic.

The effect of the poison depends on the amount of the plant that the plant has ingested.

If the plant’s sap comes in contact with your pet’s skin or even humans, it can also cause skin irritation.

If a small quantity is consumed, it might lead to mild problems like swelling of the lips and itching in the tongue, but if a large portion is ingested, it can lead to serious problems in the gastrointestinal tract and digestive tract.

So it is very important that if you have pets or children at your home, you must keep them away from the reach of the pets and children.

If your pets touch the umbrella plant, please rush to the vet immediately.


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Signs of Schefflera poisoning in your pets

The severity of the signs depends upon the amount of consumption. 

Some of the signs of Schefflera poisoning are:

  • Swelling of the lips and throat
  • Burning sensation in the mouth, tongue, lips, and throat area
  • Skin irritation
  • Excessive drooling, choking and gagging.
  • Swelling around the neck
  • Difficulty or inability to swallow
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Pawing at its mouth
  • Consumption of larger quantities can result in issues like diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting.
  • Ingestion of mass quantity can lead to renal failure and convulsions. It can leave permanent damage to the kidney and liver.

The toxic elements are present in all parts of the plant, so if the pets consume any of the parts, it will affect the health of your cats or dogs.

Now let us discuss which pets can get affected the most and what measures you can take to prevent this.

Which pets are most vulnerable to Schefflera poisoning?

The Schefflera plant can poison all pets, birds, small animals, and even humans if they ingest them in large quantities or touch the plant’s sap directly.

Since the most common pets seen around the house are cats and dogs, they are most commonly affected.

Innocent animals cannot understand what is good and bad for them.

They tend to play with plants, nibble them and scratch them.

All this creates the chances of cats and dogs being poisoned by the plant. 

However, little animals like rabbits and guinea pigs can also nibble on your plant.

You should be especially careful if you have bigger pets like cows, horses, and goats.

These animals tend to munch on plants in a mass quantity, which can be extremely dangerous.

Therefore if you have any animals in your house like birds, rabbits, dogs, or cats, make sure they can never get close to your Schefflera plant.

Keep the plant in a spot where none of your pets can reach it.

Are Schefflera plants poisonous to dogs?

Yes, Schefflera plants can be highly toxic for your dogs because of the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.

Consuming any part of the plant can lead to serious complications.

Dogs generally nibble on to a leaf or two, and since the taste is quite bitter, chances of mass consumption are almost rare.

However, even ingesting a few leaves can leave mild to moderate effects on your dog.

Some of the signs if your dog ingests any part of the plant:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the mouth and tongue, and throat
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Unable to swallow
  • Dilated eyes
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Irritation around the mouth

You must check the quantity of the consumption by glancing at the plant.

Check inside your dog’s mouth to find any traces of the plant that you must take out.

It is advisable to rush the dog to the vet instead of trying household remedies.

The treatment will depend on the severity of the consumption.

It can be cured soon if it is just mild toxicity, but the treatment will be longer if the consumption is large. 

Are Schefflera plants poisonous to cats?

Yes, the Schefflera is poisonous for your cats.

Cats are very playful and mischievous, so they can touch or consume the umbrella plant without you noticing it!

Exposure to the plant’s sap can irritate the cat’s skin.

If the cat bites any part of the plant, it will release the crystals inside the cast’s mouth, leading to the poisoning.

If the crystals reach the digestive tract, they will also affect it.

Watch out for these signs in your cat if it consumes any part of the umbrella plant. 

  • Oral irritation
  • Reduced appetite
  • Kidney failure
  • Edema (swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips)
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Foaming
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing

If the cat ingests a minute quantity of the plant, it can cause mild discomfort.

In such a situation, try to remove the plant tissue from the mouth of the cat and make the cat drink some tuna juice or hot milk.

If any serious complications arise, rush to the vet.

The vet will give medications to reduce vomiting and fluid therapy and treat the airway obstruction in case of serious respiratory disorder.

So it is highly important to keep the plant totally out of reach of your cats and kittens.

Is Schefflera poisonous to birds?

Like your four-legged friends, the Schefflera plant is equally toxic to your birds due to the same insoluble crystals.

Birds tend to chew on the plants’ leaves, leading to complications.

Fortunately for birds, chances of mass consumption are low because they like to nibble and play with leaves more.

Some of the signs of Schefflera poisoning in your birds are:

  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral infection
  • Burning in the oral area
  • Collapse 

What to do if your pet eats Schefflera?

In case of any mishap, it is best to rush to your veterinarian without delay. 

It is advisable not to try out home remedies in case of serious issues because that might aggravate the problem more.

Wasting more time can increase the problem, so it is best not to delay and take your pets to the doc to give whatever medication and treatments are needed.

If you see your pets ingesting the plant, you must follow the following steps:

  • Observe whether your pet shows any signs of poisoning.
  • If there is any part of the leaf or plant in the mouth of the pet, clean it off immediately.
  • Make your pet drink some tuna juice or milk. 
  • If you see signs of discomfort in your pet like swollen mouth, itching, irritation, or diarrhea, consults your vet immediately without delay.
  • The vet will examine the situation and the seriousness of the issue and clean the poison by washing its mouth.
  • The vet will perform the necessary tests and diagnosis to examine the seriousness of the poisoning.
  • Depending on the seriousness, urine test, stool tests, or blood tests will be conducted.
  • You should be transparent with the vet about the happenings of the mishap so that he can carry the treatments correctly.
  • The vet will give medication for mild poisoning like itching, swellings, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
  • You might have to leave your pet in the hospital for a few days to complete severe consumption treatment.


How to keep your Schefflera plant away from pets?

Prevention is better than cure.

If you have pets at home, you can decide not to keep toxic plants.

It might not always be possible to keep an eye on your pets.

A moment’s mishap can lead to a great loss.

However, if you want to keep this beautiful umbrella plant, you must be extremely careful.

Your pets will not know which plant is poisonous, so they will try to eat and nibble it.

The responsibility will be yours to prevent that.

Keep the plants in a spot where your pets cannot reach.

You can keep them on your balcony or windows and shut the entryway so your cats or dogs cannot go there.

Or you can keep them at a spot where you can always watch out.

How to keep Schefflera away from cats?

It is not easy to restrict your cats because they are naughty.

They can reach every corner of the house, so you have to be careful. 

  • You can keep the Schefflera on balconies and close the doors so the cat cannot go there. 
  • You can keep the pot on floating shelves where the cats cannot reach.
  • It is advisable not to keep the plant on the floor if you have cats.
  • There are cat repellent sprays in the market which you can spray around the plants to repel the cats.
  • Cats hate the smell of lemons and oranges, which you can spread around your plant.
  • Sprinkling tea leaves around the Schefflera will prevent the cat from going there. 

How to keep Schefflera away from dogs?

The best thing about dogs is that they can get trained and they are obedient animals, and they can follow the orders.

But there might be times when they fail to control their curiosity.

Here are a few tips that might help you:

  • If you have kept your plant on the floor, the dog can nibble the dead leaves that fall on the floor, so make sure to throw away those leaves immediately. 
  • If you keep the plant on stands, your dog can push them over or topple them.
  • Keeping your plant on the table with a tablecloth on is equally risky because if they pull the tablecloth, the pot will come hurtling down.
  • Dogs hate mustard powdered and chili flakes which you can spread around the plant.
  • Spraying vinegar around the plant will not let the dog go near the plant.
  • If you have to leave your dog alone at home, confine it to an area with no plants to prevent any accident.

How to keep Schefflera away from birds?

Restricting your feathered friends from nibbling your Schefflera might be even more challenging. 

  • Hanging shiny balloons can keep birds away from your plants.
  • You can install a scarecrow near the plant, which will scare the birds and will not come near the plant.
  • You can put nets on the balcony or window where you keep these toxic plants so that birds cannot flick inside.
  • Birds are scared of sounds, so hanging wind chimes or speakers or radios on the spot can keep birds away.

Final thoughts

Schefflera plants are toxic to cats, dogs, birds, and most animals and children. It is best not to keep this plant at home if you have pets. However, you must follow the guidelines to avoid any accidents if you want to keep them.

Keeping the plant in a safe place, away from pets and children, is the key. 

Once you understand how to maintain the distance between both, it will become easier to manage them.

Do not delay and consult the vet immediately in case of an accident. I hope this article will clear all the queries regarding the topic and it will help you make your decision.


Reference: WikipediaSciencedirectBritannicaAmerican Society for Horticultural ScienceSchefflera taxonomic history.