Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Dogs? 4 Important Things to Know Before Using It

Written by Katie Downey
Published: November 29, 2023
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Diatomaceous Earth isn’t something everyone is familiar with when thinking about their pets. It can, however, be used for numerous tasks and can even help with insects like fleas. The powdery white substance is extremely fine and can be a real headache to clean up. What are the disadvantages of using the all-natural pesticide? Is it safe to use around dogs? This article will explore some of the most important things to know before using it in your home or yard.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

food grade diatomaceous earth supplement - scoop of powder

Diatomaceous earth does more harm than good in most cases.

©marekuliasz/Shutterstock.com

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Diatomaceous earth (DE) is the powder form of tiny fossilized organisms, diatoms, found in water worldwide. The microorganisms are plankton when alive and come from salt and freshwater sources. The part that is collected is this fossilized plankton’s silica cell walls. The result is called diatomite, which sounds a bit like dynamite and is part of its makeup!

Dynamite was created using nitroglycerin, which is highly volatile and unstable when moved or handled. Using the diatomite to house the nitroglycerin created a safer and more stable product.
Diatomaceous earth is also widely used as a pesticide in gardens, barns, chicken coops, and homes. The extra fine powder is highly abrasive and dries up any oil it comes into contact with. In terms of insecticide, it dries up the insect from the outside in. By causing abrasions on the exoskeletons of insects, it creates deep enough cuts that it causes the insect’s internal fluids to leak and then dries them up, dehydrating and killing the insect.

It’s not unlike tiny razorblades hidden within baby powder or like fiberglass with its tendency to create many small cuts if touched with bare hands. Sounds a bit unpleasant for the insects with exoskeletons.

Things to Know Before Using Diatomaceous Earth Around Dogs

Diatomaceous earth( Kieselgur) powder in jar for non-toxic organic insect repellent. Using diatomite in garden concept.

Diatomaceous Earth kills bugs, yet it won’t stop them immediately.

©FotoHelin/Shutterstock.com

1. Diatomaceous Earth Is Dangerous When Airbourne

DE is extremely fine and can cause severe issues if anyone, including pets, breathes it in. The powder is breathed into our lungs but cannot be quickly expelled, which can cause a similar effect to anaphylaxis in people and pets with asthma and other breathing difficulties. In dogs with respiratory issues, diatomaceous earth could be fatal.

The results can also be a severe type of pneumonia caused by particles trapped in the lungs, making breathing difficult. Pneumonia for humans is awful, and many end up in the hospital. Remember that this is not viral, so it will not go away quickly, which is why it can be severe in a perfectly healthy person. Pneumonia in animals is often fatal. Dogs have a better chance of survival than small animals, but it can still be severe and result in a high vet bill. It has also been linked to serious lung diseases like lung cancer.

Something to keep in mind when using DE indoors; if you have central air/heat, you have an air intake that sucks air from inside of your home to recycle back once it is cooled, heated, or when the fan cuts on. The DE powder will get into your HVAC and possibly damage it. The powder can coat inside the ductwork and be constantly recycled in your home. Most filters cannot hold up against DE, either.

2. Diatomaceous Earth Can Dry Out Your Dog’s Paw Pads

This one isn’t as bad as the first, but when DE is sprinkled on the floor where your pup will walk, it can severely dry out their paw pads, causing cracking and bleeding. This can be a real problem when walking your dog or playing with them. It is painful, like any open wound. It will cause your hands and any skin it comes into contact with to dry out and potentially crack around the nails or knuckles. If this is something you’ve dealt with before, it is excruciating. Your dog feels the same way.

It will also dry out the eyes, mouth, throat, ears, and nasal cavities. This can lead to tiny cracks that can become infected. In the winter, when the heat is on, it will dry your nose, eyes, and sinuses out even more! At the very least, you will have a sneezing pet.

3. Once You Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth in Your Home, It’s There To Stay

Many people believe they can dust their carpeting with DE and “vacuum it up,” it will be out of their lives along with the fleas, mites, and whatever else you are trying to eradicate. This is absolutely false. Not only will DE possibly ruin your vacuum cleaner for good, but it can do a number on hardwood floors and cannot be thoroughly cleaned up unless you wipe every surface in your home until it is gone. Remember to wipe the walls and ceiling. It puts a fine coat of powder on everything and is so light that it is easily redistributed. This can cause severe problems for you and your dog.

It is an extremely fine powder that will become airborne over and over as people walk on the carpet, sweep floors, and dust. You will find DE dust on everything even if you believe you were careful and it was contained. It cannot be contained, like any powder.

4. Diatomaceous Earth Can Cause Stomach Upset in Your Dog

If you took the risk and liberally dusted your pup with DE outside to kill fleas and ticks, you will be in for surprises. Once your dog comes indoors, they will inevitably shake off like most dogs do periodically. This will, of course, redistribute the DE into your home’s air. It shouldn’t be a lot, so you decide to follow advice on TikTok and add a few scoops to the pup’s food later to kill internal parasites while at it. It will not kill any parasites but may kill your appetite over what might happen next.

Your best friend might develop a significant case of stomach upset. You might be tasked with cleaning up after your dog’s vomiting and diarrhea. If it is extra bad, then you will also be picking up a bill from the vet. If you treat your carpets, dog, and their food, you have several messes to clean up. At least it is possible to clean diarrhea and vomit 100%.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Lined Photo/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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