What is Diatomaceous Earth?

BARF Prey Raw Food Diets for Cats and Dogs

Diatomaceous Earth (also referred to as fossil shell flour ) provide for a very affordable way to control external and internal parasites in your fur kids. It’s a non-toxic, safe substance made up from crushed fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. Crushed to a fine powder and observed through a microscope, the particles resemble bits of broken glass.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth, Anyway?

Good question! Food grade Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) is a fine powder made from diatoms, a type of fossilized phytoplankton. It looks like rice hex under a microscope, only in cylindrical form.

The tiny diatom shells are not a food. They do not digest (except some of the trace minerals). Typical D.E. is composed primarily of hydrated silica (silicon dioxide), with 10-16% other minerals, depending upon the source ​1​. They pass all the way through the body. Everything it does is physical action. The diatom shell is a little cylinder full of holes. As stated above, it resembles rice hex cereal.

“Diatom” is the name given to any of over 5000 species of algae of the class Bacillariophyceae. Diatoms are usually single-celled. Yet, occasionally they aggregate into small colonies by virtue of their sticky, gelatinous coating. Though also present in aerial and terrestrial environments, their main habitat is aquatic.

They live in both freshwater and marine water. In the waters of earth they occupy mainly the top 100 meters, where sunlight is abundantly available. When diatoms die, their silica-rich cell walls remain behind and accumulate on the ocean floor in continuous layers that can be up to 3,000 feet thick. These siliceous remains are “diatomaceous earth” or “diatomite”. Their chalky deposit is useful in industrial filtering out of impurities, as an adsorbent, and as an insulator.

D.E. is also used as fillers, coating agents, carriers and thickening agents for paints, fertilizers, pesticides, and ointments, as abrasives and protectants against pests in stored grain.

The Benefits Of Diatomaceous Earth For Dogs & Cats

Internal parasites can potentially be controlled by giving D.E. internally. It is very important to note that it must be food grade, like our DE from Raw Love for Pets – the earth used in gardens and pool filters can damage your dog.

D.E. can help to eliminate roundworms, whipworms, pinworms, and hookworms within seven days of being fed daily. To be most effective, Diatomaceous Earth should be fed for at least 30 days, to catch all newly hatching eggs or the cycling of the worms through the lungs and back to the stomach.

Some believe D.E. scratches and dehydrates parasites. Some scientists believe that D.E. is a de-ionizer or de-energizer of worms or parasites. Regardless, pet parents report positive results.

Another use for D.E. is the control of external parasites and flies. This is achieved by dusting your dog with D.E., along with his bedding area and surrounding carpeted areas.

Fortunately, these microscopic sharp edges are too small to harm dogs, cats, or humans. You can safely rub food-grade diatomaceous earth between your fingers without cutting yourself. It passes through your dog or cat’s body without any negative effects.

Your Mileage will Vary ..

As with any natural alternative solution, there is much controversy attached to the use of D.E. What medical science is agreeing with, is that resistance to commercially available dewormers has become common in parasites, and levels seem to be increasing worldwide. The pharmaceutical industry has not introduced new drug classes with new modes of action for usage since the early 1980s, and it remains uncertain when such new products will be marketed. D.E. could be an effective and reliable alternative to the traditional drugs.

In the mid-1990s, Iowa State University provided a pelleted diet with or without 5 or 10% DE to weanling lambs on pasture for 117 days for two years (Osweiler and Carson, 1995) (PDF). No differences were found for weight gain or fecal egg counts or abomasal worm counts.

A study in 2011 to determine the effect of D.E. on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens by the Avian Research Centre, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in Canada found positive results. The outcome of the study concluded that D.E. has the potential to be an effective treatment to help control parasites and improve production of organically raised, free-range layer hens ​2​.

In a more recent study in 2013, sheep fed diets with or without 2% DE had similar fecal egg counts and unconvincing larvae per gram of feces data.

In contrast, an in-depth review of various case studies by local researchers found positive results for the use of D.E. in general farming situations ​3​.

References and Research

  1. 1.
    Martinovic S, Vlahovic M, Boljanac T, Pavlovic L. Preparation of filter aids based on diatomites. International Journal of Mineral Processing. September 2006:255-260. doi:10.1016/j.minpro.2006.05.006
  2. 2.
    Bennett DC, Yee A, Rhee Y-J, Cheng KM. Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens. Poultry Science. June 2011:1416-1426. doi:10.3382/ps.2010-01256
  3. 3.
    Ikusika O, Mpendulo C, Zindove T, Okoh A. Fossil Shell Flour in Livestock Production: A Review. Animals. February 2019:70. doi:10.3390/ani9030070

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