diatomaceous earth for fleas
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Chewy EditorialHealth / Wellness

What on Earth Is Diatomaceous Earth? (Hint: It’s for Fleas)

For pet parents seeking a natural way to ward off pests, diatomaceous earth (DE) for fleas has long been considered an effective option. But if you’ve never heard of DE, you probably have questions: Does diatomaceous earth kill fleas effectively? How do you use diatomaceous earth to kill fleas? What is this stuff, anyway? Can you even pronounce it?

Read on to learn more about this unique, naturally occurring substance, and how to use diatomaceous earth for fleas on dogs and cats.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth (pronounced die-uh-tuh-MEY-shuhs, by the way) is actually made up of single-celled organisms called “diatoms.” The skeletons of these diatoms are made of a natural substance called silica, and over long periods of time, their skeletons accumulate and fossilize in the sediment of lakes, rivers, streams and oceans. The resulting sedimentary deposits are mined and used to create what we know as diatomaceous earth.

Using Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas on Pets

Diatomaceous earth uses include the control and prevention of fleas, as well as bed bugs, ticks, spiders, cockroaches, crickets and many other pests in outdoor and indoor settings. There are different grades of diatomaceous earth that are used for a variety of jobs, but as Dr. Michele Yassom, a holistic veterinarian based in New Paltz, New York, specifies, the one that you should use with your pets exclusively is the 100-percent food-grade diatomaceous earth. DiatomaceousEarth Food Grade Powder is an example of an appropriate form of diatomaceous earth for cats and dogs. Most clients use it as a routine natural flea treatment, Dr. Yassom says.

How Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas?

Using its abrasive, sharp edges, DE works by penetrating an insect’s exoskeleton and absorbing its oils and fats, thus drying them out and killing them.

“The diatom fossils are attracted to the wet, slippery lipid layer of the parasites, and scratches them with their sharp edges and dries them out,” Dr. Yassom says.

But while diatomaceous earth can kill adult fleas, it’s not effective at killing insect eggs. That means pet parents should continue treating their pet for a minimum of two weeks, Dr. Yassom says.

How Do I Use Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Fleas?

Diatomaceous earth for cats and dogs is only effective at killing insects and parasites when it comes into direct contact with them, so according to what type of parasites you are dealing with, your treatment method may differ.

For internal parasites, Dr. Yassom says, you can use DiatomaceousEarth Food Grade Powder in your pet’s food to help eliminate hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, pinworms and tapeworms. Every pet is different, so talk with your veterinarian about treatment duration and dosages, to ensure you treat your dog or cat effectively.

For external parasites, such as fleas and ticks, DE can be used topically. For dogs, you can use it in a powder form, like the Natural Chemistry De Flea Carpet Powder, which combines food-grade diatomaceous earth with essential oil extracts. It can be used on carpets and rubbed into your dog’s coat, but take care not to get the powder near a dog’s eyes, nose or mouth.

Again, whether you’re interested in using diatomaceous earth internally or topically, it is very important to discuss it with your veterinarian in advance, so that you can be sure you are using it effectively and safely.

Things to Know Before Using Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas

  • Always store diatomaceous earth in a clean, dry area. It’s best to keep it in a sealed container or bag. Diatomaceous earth can last indefinitely as long as it is stored in a dry and clean container.
  • Use extreme caution when applying or handling DE. Since diatomaceous earth is so incredibly absorbent, the powder form can act as an irritant to the skin, eyes, mouth and lungs—both for you and your pets. It is very important to take the proper precautions, like talking to your veterinarian and reading all instructions on the bag, to make sure you are using it safely and correctly.

By: Jasmine Chang
Jasmine Chang has been a New York City-based fashion editor and consultant for over 25 years. She adores dogs because of their authenticity and the fact that they never judge what people wear. She lives in Brooklyn with her very spoiled Frenchie, Harry. 

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