diatomaceous earth fleas

Many people don’t know their dogs have fleas and many times I see an itchy dog and run a flea comb over it and come up with fleas! Most owners are dumbfounded because they didn’t know their dog had fleas or knew, but weren’t using effective control.

I believe flea products that work for animals are valuable and I’m happy to endorse these products because I know that fleas are behind a lot of problems with itching.

diatomaceous earth fleas

FLEAS – What Works & What Doesn’t Work?

Diatomaceous Earth

What is it?

Diatomaceous Earth, often referred to as DE,  is the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms and mainly consists of 80 to 90% silica. Silica is very common in nature and various forms of silica include sand, emerald, quartz, feldspar, mica, clay, asbestos and glass.


Diatoms (Illustration by Wikicommons)

DE has a wide variety of uses in every day life – It is used in many food products at a low level as a stabiliser and also used in toothpaste as a mild abrasive. DE is also used as a filtration aid, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.

Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth is inert and non-toxic when consumed and very little is absorbed, causing no problems and it also adds silicon*, which is a necessary part of our diet. Wildlife, especially fish and aquatic birds and mammals, have always had a natural exposure to Diatomaceous Earth and it is a safe and natural food substance. However, inhaling the dust will cause lung damage called silicosis.

Diatomaceous Earth: Fleas, Tick and Pest Management

Natural Pet Health Websites often recommend the use of Diatomaceous Earth for combatting fleas. They advise sprinkling DE (food grade only) around the yard and in the household, concentrating on the infested areas only.

The theory is that once the fleas, ticks and other pests come in contact with DE, the tiny crushed up fossilized sea shells will puncture the insects exoskeleton and absorb the lipids from their protective layer, causing them to dehydrate and die.

In reality it doesn’t work very well and because of fast reproduction anything less than 100% efficiency is a waste of time. You would also run the risk of both you and your animals inhaling the dust.

So, does dusting your animal with Diatomaceous Earth kill fleas? Possibly, but again you run the risk of the silicon entering the body crevices which will be harmful and act as an irritant to your pet.

Some think erroneously that DE can be used as an oral anthelmintic (a substance that is capable of destroying or eliminating parasitic worms), but Diatomaceous Earth’s anti-insect activity is through desiccation and irritation (as explained above) which cannot happen in the fluid environment of the intestinal tract and this has been proven in scientific trials.

Ultimately Diatomaceous Earth is only weakly insecticidal and there are much more effective agents.

What works for Fleas and Ticks?

The flea and tick products that I endorse and have seen work are Comfortis (fleas only – in US >Cheristin For Cats – 6pk by Lilly) , Nexgard and Bravetco (fleas and ticks) tablets. Unlike flea collars, or topical applications, these tablets are non toxic and are 100% effective against fleas and ticks.

Diatomaceous Earth - Fleas, Ticks & other uses...

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Flea and tick collars, which are commonly used in households, are both toxic to your pet and children and are only 40% effective against controlling the pests. When the collars get wet their effectiveness will drop down to 10%.

A second tier pest control that is worth considering is an imidocloprid spray which has low toxicity to animals but will affect the nervous system of insects. This spray offers a good alternative when you have a herd of calves with fleas (provided the animals don’t swim) because feeding them tablets will be far more expensive.


*Silicon – a component of silica, does not exist naturally in its pure form. It usually reacts with oxygen and water to form silicon dioxide. Silicon dioxide has two naturally occurring forms: crystalline and amorphous. Most diatomaceous earth is made of amorphous silicon dioxide. However, it can contain very low levels of crystalline silicon dioxide.

BY Doug English BVSc


So What Now?

1.        Use one of Doug’s recommended products (see above) to rid your animal of fleas.

2.        Start adding turmeric to your animal’s daily diet.

Turmeric works from the inside. It will assist the skin in healing and build better immunity levels for your animal.


Please Note: If you have ruled out fleas and your dog constantly licks its paws and scratches then please CLICK HERE & READ this article – Dr Doug English’s Yeast Spray recipe.

AND CLICK HERE for Doug’s article on Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs.



Written by Doug English BVSc
From a pioneering farming family in Malanda, Atherton Tableland, North Queensland, Australia. After high school in Cairns I attended Gatton Agricultural College to study agriculture and after graduation went on to the University of Queensland Veterinary Science faculty where I graduated in 1974 and went into rural practice at Moree NSW. Then I did a few years with the South Australian Department of Agriculture as a livestock advisor mainly involved in the eradication of Brucellosis and tuberculosis in the cattle herds. This was followed by about 20 years in mixed farm/equine/pets at Wyong, NSW Central Coast, then managed a large thoroughbred stud at Scone (Kia-Ora) before returning back to Cairns, North Queensland to have my own mixed practice on the Northern Beaches for around 15 years. Now living on the Gold Coast in a farm/equine practice and researching turmeric growing and manufacturing health products from this wonderful plant.