Our canine pals can and will eat anything they can get their mouths on, whether it’s safe for them or not. And this doesn’t only include food from our plates; dogs sometimes eat items they find around the house. This includes diatomaceous earth, which is often used as a natural pesticide in the environment. People sometimes ingest food-grade diatomaceous earth in food or use it in toothpaste.
But is this safe for our pets? Can dogs eat diatomaceous earth? Diatomaceous earth, especially food-grade preparations, is likely safe for dogs to eat in small amounts. So you don’t need to worry if your dog has eaten a little bit. That said, it’s not a great idea for your dog to be around it often. While diatomaceous earth is non-toxic, there are some disadvantages to it.
Here’s what you should know!
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
The first thing to know is that diatomaceous earth isn’t earth at all. It’s formed from the crushed fossils of freshwater organisms and is mostly made of silica. Instead of a fine product like dirt, you end up with microscopic jagged little shards.
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) reports that dichotomous earth works by absorbing fats and oils from the exoskeletons of insects, drying them out. The sharp edges may speed up the killing process. Of the 150+ registered diatomaceous earth products most are designed for use in the environment although some are used topically on animals. They are registered for use against bed bugs, cockroaches, crickets, fleas, spiders and ticks.
There is no evidence that diatomaceous earth kills internal parasites. The NPIC states that diatomaceous earth is effective as long as it remains dry and undisturbed which is not the case when it enters the body. To treat your dog for worms, you should purchase a registered, veterinary-approved product for this purpose. It is also important to note that diatomaceous earth does not kill flea eggs or stop reproduction so it isn’t usually effective on its own for controlling flea infestations. Remember, when purchasing diatomaceous earth use only as directed on the label to avoid any harmful exposure.
Disadvantages of Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth may be safe for your dog to eat in small amounts, but it isn’t necessarily the best thing for them to breathe in. It may also cause irritation of the nasal passages, eyes, and skin.
Diatomaceous earth exists in two forms; the amorphous and crystalline form. Very small amounts of the crystalline form may be present in pesticide products and this form is more harmful to breathe in. While breathing in diatomaceous earth once or twice shouldn’t cause significant issues, breathing it in the long term (like if you’re regularly applying it to your dog’s coat to kill fleas or deodorize your furry friend) can lead to problems, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and silicosis in humans. It could potentially be harmful for dogs too. Animal studies showed changes in the lungs of guinea pigs after two years of breathing in diatomaceous earth.
Your dog may also experience irritation if diatomaceous earth gets in or around their eyes. If your dog experiences any eye irritation, seek treatment at your veterinarian to prevent them from scratching and potentially injuring their eyes.
Finally, diatomaceous earth can irritate skin, especially if your dog’s skin is sensitive. It can also dry your pup’s skin out if left on for long periods (like for flea control) since it soaks up oil. This can lead to itching, sores, and sometimes infection.
Diatomaceous earth is considered non-toxic to dogs, so if you’ve been using it around your home as pest control and your dog has gotten into a little, there’s no need for concern. If your dog has ingested a large amount the best course of action is to call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline for advice. Due to its limitations, it is not a go-to product for pest control in dogs but can be used to kill fleas.
There are a few health concerns that come along with diatomaceous earth, as well. When inhaled over long periods, this product may lead to breathing problems. In the short term, it can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and airways. If you’re opting to use diatomaceous earth as flea control, it’s best not to use it long-term and always follow label directions to avoid any adverse effects.