Persistent scratching, irritated skin, and telltale small black dots: these are all signs that your home or dog has fleas. Not only are these pests annoying, they can also cause serious health problems like infection, anemia, and tapeworm. But flea killers sold at stores aren’t always safe either. In fact, thousands of dogs are believed to have died from exposure to flea treatments over the years.
Before turning to commercial flea killers, some pet owners opt for natural remedies instead. One such alternative is Diatomaceous Earth, a natural compound that is much safer for both dogs and humans than chemical insecticides.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a type of sand that contains microscopic sea organisms, called diatoms. Over millions of years, these algae become fossilized in the earth surrounding bodies of water like rivers and oceans. The earth is then harvested for its high silica content, a naturally occurring chemical compound that has many uses in food, around the home, and in industrial settings.
There are two types of diatomaceous earth: food-grade diatomaceous earth and filter-grade diatomaceous earth. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is used as an anti-caking agent and an insecticide in food production. It can also be purchased for household use. Filter-grade diatomaceous earth is toxic and has varied uses, such as in water filtration.
How it works
Since diatomaceous earth is a natural and non-toxic compound, it doesn’t work like most chemical insecticides. The silica particles in diatomaceous earth are sharp and abrasive, and when they come into contact with fleas, they cause tears in the pests’ exoskeletons. Then, the compound absorbs oils from the fleas, drying out and killing them.
How to get rid of fleas with Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is an effective way to control fleas around the home and prevent further spread once your dog has them. With a few easy steps, you can effectively remove all trace of fleas from your home in just a couple days.
If you choose to follow this protocol, make sure you purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth, which is safe for your family and pets. Filter-grade or pool-grade diatomaceous earth is toxic and should not be used around the home. Here is our favorite and the one we often use around our homes:
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1. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around your home
Once you’ve acquired food-grade diatomaceous earth, sprinkle a layer over all areas of your home that could have been exposed to fleas. Try to identify all the areas where your dog likes to spend time. This might include the carpet, sofa, beds, pillows, and dog beds. Don’t forget hard-to-reach areas like under tables.
2. Let the Diatomaceous Earth sit for a few days
Due to the nature of how diatomaceous earth kills fleas, it won’t work instantly. Give the compound a few days to do its job. The more time you let it sit, the more fleas will come into contact with the particles.
3. Vacuum the treated areas
After a few days, vacuum all the areas where you applied diatomaceous earth. In addition to vacuuming up the diatomaceous earth particles, you’ll be removing the dead fleas and larvae that have been left behind by the treatment. Make sure to use a shop vac since diatomaceous earth’s sharp particles will be tough on your household vacuum cleaner’s filter.
4. Reapply as needed
For particularly bad infestations, you may need another diatomaceous earth application to effectively get rid of all traces of fleas. Carefully inspect your dog, the carpet, and any furniture for evidence of remaining fleas and larvae. If needed, repeat the above steps until all fleas are gone.
Frequently asked questions
While diatomaceous earth is an effective way to get rid of a home flea infestation caused by your dog, you should never apply diatomaceous earth directly to your pup’s skin or coat. Even though it isn’t toxic, this chemical can irritate your dog’s eyes, nose, and lungs if accidentally ingested. However, there are some pet-safe flea treatments available from pet suppliers that contain diatomaceous earth and can be used directly on animals.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is not generally considered harmful to pets or humans. However, it may cause some irritation to the eyes and respiratory system if directly inhaled.
Diatomaceous earth is used for many benefits aside from flea treatments. It’s a safe and effective pesticide and preservative that is often used in many stages of food production. Around the house, it’s used as a stain remover, deodorizer, and garden pest remover. One study has even shown that diatomaceous earth can help support healthy cholesterol levels.