Diatomaceous Earth for fleas: Didn’t work for us

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We’ve used Frontline or Advantix to keep fleas off of our dogs for years. But, lately, neither seemed to be keeping away the fleas like they used to. So, we decided to try out alternatives.

You may have read, like we did, about Diatomaceous Earth for flea control. Some recommend feeding it — food grade quality only! — to dogs. Some recommend using it as a flea powder. Some recommend both.

It sounded promising, so we bought a bag of food grade diatomaceous earth and excitedly tried the second method, which is basically the rub it all over the dogs.

The theory is that the chalk-like powder, which is made up of diatoms that have fossilized over thousands of years, is a natural and safe—possibly even healthy—way to rid your dogs of fleas. Why? Because the sharp edges of the powder particles cut up fleas and also dry them out. And, if the dogs eat some of it, no problem, since, allegedly, Diatomaceous Earth also helps eliminate internal parasites, such as hookworms. (There are also claims that Diatomaceous Earth can be consumed by humans to help improve skin and hair health, and remove toxins and heavy metals.)

Whether any of some of the above is true seems to be the subject of much debate on the Internet. But, we can say we didn’t have any luck in ridding fleas using DE.

We applied it to each of our five dogs, rubbing it into their skin and waited 48 hours (the maximum amount of time it was supposed to take for fleas to die off). We also junked all their old bedding and replaced it, sprinkling some DE on that too. No luck. So we tried again and waited again.

This time we almost thought we could hear the fleas laughing at us as, still strong in numbers, they jumped around on our powdery dogs.

That’s when we went back to the Internet to find out if others had had no luck with DE and saw that we weren’t alone. We also became concerned when we read the inhaling DE can be a potential health hazard, as we hadn’t taken any precautions to protect our lungs when applying it to the dogs. We don’t think we were exposed to that much, but it’s still kind of scary.

Another issue with the DE is that, even after only two applications, it dried out our dogs’ skin.

If you look at the picture below, you can see Caramel’s fur with really bad dandruff that she got after the DE and never had before it.

Dog dander after DE use

As you can see, Caramel’s coat is normally shiny and healthy. Except for the stupid fleas, that is.


After the DE, we tried apple cider vinegar diluted with water, which is another recommendation for getting rid of fleas. First, we tried spraying it on, but that didn’t work great, as the dogs hate anything that comes from a spray bottle.

We then tried applying it by wiping it on with paper towels. The dogs liked the rubbing action, but, it really seemed as if the fleas increased in number after trying this.

In the end, we decided to go back to the products we were used to, so we ordered some Frontline. We figured it has been the easiest way to, if not eradicate them, then at least keep fleas down to minimal numbers.

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