What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Parasites of any kind can be the bane of a pet owner’s existence.  Parasites can be internal or external – from worms and bacteria to fleas and ticks.  Many pet owners who wish to keep treatment of their pets as natural as possible, turn to diatomaceous earth as a solution to their parasite problems, but what exactly IS diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous earth consists of the remains of one celled plants called diatoms.  Long ago, these plants lived in the bodies of water that covered much of the earth leaving their remains behind when they perished.  Its these remains that are harvested and known as diatomaceous earth (DE).  The diatoms are processed and developed into a myriad of different diatomaceous earth products.  Two important distinctions are pool grade DE and food grade DE.  Pool grade DE has been treated with heat and chemicals and is poisonous if ingested.  For that reason, it is important that only food grade DE is used for pet purposes. 

DE can be used for both internal and external parasite control and has been approved by the EPA, USDA and the FDA for

A close up photo of a diatom. Note the sharp edges that make this natural substance a superior mechanical killer of fleas, ticks and other pests.

internal and external use.  DE is a mechanical killer.  This means that it is natural and does not rely on chemicals to kill parasites.  Rather, the very nature of the diatoms is what does the killing.  The dried remains of the diatoms have razor sharp edges.  With the naked eye and touch we cannot see or feel these edges – they are simply too small.  The sharp edges work to pierce the waxy exoskeleton of parasites and insects and causing loss of fluids, dehydration and death.  All without the use of chemicals.

Internally, DE can wipe out parasites completely, generally in approximately 60-90 days.  This length of time is required to kill all parasites as hatching times may vary.  The adults and larvae are killed first while the hatching eggs are killed as they hatch.  In a study at the Midland Animal Clinic and Hospital, DE was found to have caused all ova (eggs) to have disappeared from the stool of the affected animals within 7 days.  Its efficacy was found to include Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms.  It is important that enough DE be fed to the animal as lesser amounts will not have the same effect and the worm load will continue to exist.  Moderately increasing dosage will not hurt anyone – remember, you are dealing with a natural non-chemical product!  Yet another benefit, parasites don’t build up any sort of immunity or tolerance to DE which means that a rotation of different worming agents isn’t necessary.  The mechanical nature of the product ensures that all parasites will be equally affected regardless of how many times it is used.

External use of DE is also quite popular.  For many people, it is their top choice as a method to control fleas, tick, mites and other insects in their yard.  The top reason for this is because it is non-chemical.  There is no need to keep your pets out of the yard when you treat and no worries that your pet will come into contact with any harmful chemicals.  DE can be directly applied to your pet’s fur.  Just lightly rub it into their coat.  Once there, any fleas or other pests that are hanging out on the animal, will be pierced and dehydrated by the diatoms.  It can take approximately 72 hours for the DE to dehydrate existing fleas and bugs so the substance must remain on them for at least that long prior to any bathing.

Many people don’t understand that fleas do not actually live on dog and cats (and other mammals).  They merely hop on for a blood meal and go on their merry way.  If you see a flea on your dog or cat, it is, in truth, only about 5% of your problem.  Fleas live in the yard, on pet bedding, in cracks in the floor, on furniture, in carpeting, along your baseboards, on your curtains – just about anywhere in your home.  If you take your dog on trips with you, even just to the store or to the dog park, you can bet that flea eggs have dropped into your car and they live there too.  While treating your animals is a start, it doesn’t begin to control your problem or your potential infestation.  What is needed is a simultaneous treatment of your pets AND their environment.  To this end, DE is easy to use and easy to apply. Sprinkle it on carpets, floors, furniture, pet bedding – anyplace and everyplace that your pets hang out.  Have carpeting?  Carpet is a luxury resort to a flea.  Sprinkle it lightly throughout, wait a couple of days then vacuum.

Use DE in your yard as a method to control all insect populations.  Sprinkling it around the entire yard is great but pay close attention and special consideration to the foundation of your home as well as the line of your fence if you have one.  The border areas of your fenced yard and right against your house are the most popular places for fleas and other insects.  DE will not only kill fleas but has been shown to be effective against a myriad of insects such as ants, ticks, cockroaches, spiders, termites, silverfish, mites, bedbugs and centipedes just to name a few.  Always keep in mind that

Don’t let your pup suffer from a flea infestation. Get rid of fleas and other pests naturally and safely and BREAK the life cycle by using all natural food grade diatomaceous earth.

for insects, like fleas, that lay eggs, additional applications are necessary to kill the pests as they hatch.  A one time application is simply not going to do it.  The life cycle of the eggs is at least three weeks.  Also important to remember is that it takes only one animal walking through your yard (think wildlife which has become quite prevalent even in suburban areas) to drop a flea egg that will begin the cycle yet again.  Keeping DE on hand for periodic treatment is a must.

DE has been shown to be beneficial in other ways as well.  When ingested, it has been shown to improve digestive health by virtue of its natural ability to ‘scrub’ the intestinal tract.  It has been said that DE will actually improve joint health in older animals suffering from arthritis.  It also has the ability to absorb toxins both in the body and in the earth itself.  DE is a natural deodorizer and absorber – applying it to kennel runs and litter boxes will not only kill any pests and insects in evidence, but will also keep areas dry preventing the problems caused by bacteria growing in moist dark areas.  Used widely in farm situations, DE is spectacular for controlling fly populations especially when used liberally in and around manure storage areas.  In the home itself, DE has been used successfully as a metal cleaner when mixed with a small amount of water to make a scrubbing paste.  Use it as well in your bathroom areas to remove soap scum and grime without relying on various chemicals.

DE is an outstanding product for use in any household that has pets.  While also beneficial for humans, for homes with any number of animals, it can’t be beat for a natural healthy way to keep unwanted creatures away from your precious furry creatures.  Available at most feed stores, it is an economical way to keep your home safe from the harm of parasites and pests.