Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Prevention

In the past month, The Animal Medical Center has received several inquiries about the use of diatomaceous earth (DE) as a flea preventative. I knew DE was used in swimming pool and fish tank filters, in cat litter and in laboratory studies but I hadn’t heard of using it against fleas. I found some interesting information to share with you.

Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossilized silica skeletons of a unicellular organism known as a diatom. Diatomaceous earth crumbles easily and has the texture of pumice. Many websites recommending natural and organic medications suggest a host of medical uses for DE. Although DE is GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and some forms of DE are considered food grade, there are no FDA approved DE compounds for the treatment of diseases or for parasite control.  

Food and Drug Administration approval of a medication assures the consumer and the prescribing veterinarian that the product meets certain safety and efficacy standards.  In the case of flea and tick preventative medications, FDA approval means the medications are tested for safety in both dogs and cats if the medication is approved for use in both species. The manufacturer also has to prove to the FDA that the medication works against the parasite(s) the label says it kills or prevents. Without FDA approval, I don’t have enough information on the dosage, efficacy or safety of a medication to know how much to give, if the product works, or if it will hurt my patient.

Pet owners wishing to avoid chemical flea control don’t have very effective options. Keeping the pet inside and away from other animals will decrease exposure, but in apartment buildings the little critters can travel between apartments in the hallway carpet. Daily vacuuming of your apartment and disposing of the bag will help to decrease the numbers of fleas and eggs in the environment. Finally, using a flea comb daily will decrease fleas and eggs on your pet.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

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