Diatomaceous earth for dogs does have its uses and is thought to be an effective and natural flea treatment. Food grade diatomaceous earth is safe to ingest in appropriate doses (see below), but may not be the right choice for every dog.
If you’re a pet owner considering the use of diatomaceous earth to rid your dog of internal parasites, fleas or ticks, there are a few important things you need to know. Dogs with underlying skin conditions and/or allergies may end up worse off because of the drying effects of this substance. If you are particularly worried about pharmaceuticals to control parasites in your dog, diatomaceous earth might be worth a try.
This post will offer some good tips and tricks for treating your dog along with a list of 7 claims that may or may not be true.
Can Diatomaceous Earth Hurt My Dog?
Diatomaceous earth is recognized by the Food & Drug Administration and is considered a safe, natural alternative to treat bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and some internal parasites. It originates from crushed sea plankton (microscopic skeletons of diatoms that are mostly comprised of silica) and is ground into powder form. It can be taken internally, spread on pet bedding, around household baseboards, gardens, or applied to a dog’s fur.
The food grade version of diatomaceous earth is considered safe for human and pet consumption. It’s important to know that there is also an industrial grade product used in the agricultural industry. If you’re shopping for this product at regular health food stores, department stores, or wherever pet products are sold, you don’t have to worry. If in doubt, ask!
What Are the Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs?
There are anecdotal stories of people who use diatomaceous earth as a natural way to kill internal and external parasites on dogs. Naturally, manufacturers of the product want to sell it to you and they likely have a list of “medical” claims that are listed further into this post. The best use of diatomaceous earth for dogs would be for internal and external parasitic infections.
Diatomaceous earth is designed to slowly kill insects and parasites by chipping away at their protective waxy layer. Once that layer is gone, the insects/parasites dry up and die. The microscopic sharp edges of the sand is what cuts into the bug, essentially causing it to dehydrate.
WARNING: Always check with your veterinarian before using diatomaceous earth for fleas, ticks, and worms. The product itself is considered safe; however, it takes a lot longer to get rid of fleas than anything the veterinarian could offer/sell.
The most comprehensive document about diatomaceous earth can be found at the National Pesticide Information Center.
How Do I Use Diatomaceous Earth on my Dog?
Products containing food grade diatomaceous earth should have instructions written on the packaging including how to administer and dosing guides based on the weight/size of your dog. It’s a light, powdery substance that can be mixed into wet dog food or applied onto the fur.
The Fine Print on Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs…
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to consult with a licensed veterinarian before using this product. The product itself is considered safe; however, it may not be as effective as it needs to be. It’s messy and needs to be used for a considerable amount of time to kill and control a flea infestation. Fleas have a long life cycle from egg to larvae – to adult flea. Diatomaceous earth will not kill the flea eggs and it takes at least 3 weeks or more to wipe out an infestation.
It Might Not Work to Kill Internal/External Parasites in Dogs
Looking for the safest alternatives to pharmaceuticals is a good practice in various situations. However, it’s important to stress that pharmaceuticals go through rigorous testing and are considered safe for most pets. The other thing to consider is whether your dog truly has internal parasites. Diatomaceous earth will not kill heartworm or tapeworm, both of which can cause serious harm to your dog.
7 Claims of Diatomaceous Earth That You Should Question
#1: Diatomaceous earth for dogs and people is thought to detoxify the body.
A normal, healthy liver does its job of removing toxins from the body without the aid of additional products. If your dog is showing any signs of toxicity, he/she must see a veterinarian for treatment. Diatomaceous earth will not clear poisonous substances from your dog’s body.
#2: Can diatomaceous earth for dogs supports healthy joints?
It’s important to understand that there may be some validity in these claims; however, food grade diatomaceous earth shouldn’t be considered a miracle cure for everything that ails your dog. There are many natural products on the market.
#3: Reduces the pain of arthritis.
If your dog is suddenly limping, doesn’t want to play as often, has difficulty walking or getting up from a resting position, it’s important to get a veterinarian’s diagnosis. Pets can experience pain for a variety of reasons. Even if joint pain is suspected, it’s probably a good idea not to use diatomaceous earth as a treatment option. Until you know what’s really bothering your dog, why waste your time and potentially extend your dog’s suffering.
#4: Improves bone density.
Clinical-based studies are hard to find on this topic. However, according to a journal entry titled Silicon and Bone Health, there may be some evidence that it increases bone density in people. The study was not conducted on animals.
Accumulating evidence over the last 30 years strongly suggest that dietary silicon is beneficial to bone and connective tissue health and we recently reported strong positive associations between dietary Si intake and bone mineral density in US and UK cohorts.Jugdaohsingh R. Silicon and bone health. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007;11(2):99-110.
#5: Helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dogs can develop a disease that is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in people. It’s called Degenerative Myelopathy and is a disease of the spinal cord in middle-aged to senior dogs. is a lot like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in humans. In dogs, it starts as a limp or a wobble in the hind legs. There is no clinical evidence, however, to suggest that a diet of diatomaceous earth could prevent this disease from affecting a dog.
#6: Strengthens the heart.
The best way to keep a dog’s heart healthy and strong is through regular exercise and weight control. If your dog has any joint pain or mobility issues, swimming is an excellent way to keep his/her heart strong.
#7. Can Diatomaceous earth for dogs lower cholesterol?
Rather than relying on a single, unsubstantiated claim, it’s best to feed your dog high-quality dog food with the least amount of fillers. Your veterinarian can suggest the best type of dog food based on your dog’s breed and age.
Side-Effects of Using Diatomaceous Earth on Dog’s Fur
Short-term use of diatomaceous earth on dogs (i.e. applying directly to the fur) probably won’t do any harm, provided your dog doesn’t have allergies or skin conditions. There are, however, some side-effects to consider for both you, your family, and your pets before using.
- light powder can be inhaled by children, adults, and pets causing irritation of the lining within the lungs
- dogs have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts and too much diatomaceous earth could make that worse
- the drying nature of the product can cause a dog to itch excessively which could cause the skin to open and become infected
So Do You or Don’t You Use Diatomaceous Earth?
People use the product for their pets and to help eliminate infestations within the home and garden. While it is considered safe by FDA standards, there are many other things to consider before giving it to your pet. Eradicating fleas requires long-term application which, over time, can really irritate your dog’s skin. He/she can also inhale the powder into the lungs. At the end of the day, you can’t be sure it’s going to protect your dog effectively from parasites.
The best option is to seek medical assistance/advice before coating your dog with diatomaceous earth. Again, it’s not that the product isn’t safe, it’s that the product may not be effective enough to keep your dog healthy.
Questions? Have you used diatomaceous earth on your dogs? Send me an email at: [email protected]