Diatomaceous Earth for Horses

I don’t recall where I first heard about Diatomaceous Earth (DE), but I do remember wondering what in the heck it was when I first saw that strange name. As a former science teacher, I knew the root word–diatom, a one-celled plantbut I still wasn’t exactly sure what this product was or why people were feeding it to horses.

Well, I would soon learn more about DE, and after reading Joe Camp’s book, The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd, I decided to give it a try for myself. I was hoping to reduce my dependency on chemical dewormers and DE seemed like a good way to start.

My horses ate the fine white powder mixed in their feed willingly enough, but eventually I forgot to keep feeding it, and DE and its proclaimed health benefits slipped from my mind.

But since my last fecal egg count (FEC) revealed that two of my horses were carrying a medium worm load, I decided to start my horses back on DE once again to see if it would help. My plan is to use it for a month or so and then re-test.

But since DE has other benefits aside from its supposed parasite control benefits, I figured it was worthy of a blog post.

 

Increases Mineral Absorption

DE is a made up of fossilized diatoms and is found in ancient sea beds all over the world, including the U.S. Because of its high silica content, one of the most well-known benefits of DE is its ability to help the body absorb calcium as well as other minerals. Studies have also shown that dietary silica is beneficial for bone and connective tissue health.

 

Detoxification Agent

DE is also said to absorb many toxic agents, including mercury and other heavy metals, pesticide and drug residue, e-coli, and even some viruses. It works in a similar way to antioxidants, helping to fight free radical damage. After consumption, silica particles carry an electrical charge which attaches to free radicals and other harmful toxins, allowing them to be excreted from the body through sweat, urine, or feces.

 

640px-Diatomaceous_Earth_BrightField

 

Natural Pesticide

DE is also commonly used around yards and household to kill insects. It works by absorbing lipids from the insect’s waxy exoskeleton and causing them to die of dehydration. Some feed companies run DE through their mills in order to get rid of grain moths and weevils.

DE can also be used around the barn and pasture to help eliminate unwanted insects such as cockroaches, ants, flies, etc. Additionally, it may help control flies simply by feeding it since the undigested portion can pass through manure and kill fly larvae after flies lay their eggs in the manure.

 

 

Parasite Control

Many people do feed DE as a form of parasite control, and the belief is that the microscopically sharp edges can perforate the outer protective layer of parasites and cause them to dehydrate, just like it does insects. One study did show that hens fed DE had lower FEC’s than a control group. These hens also produced more eggs and consumed more feed than the control group.

If DE improves mineral absorption and detoxifies the body, then it’s going to automatically strengthen the immune system and improve the health of the horse. And in my opinion, a horse with a strong immune system is less likely to carry a high worm load.

As I stated earlier, I haven’t completely made up my mind as to DE’s parasite control claims, but being that it has several other benefits, I still believe it can be beneficial to feed and also use around the barn.

 

Cautions with DE

There are two important cautions everyone should be aware of when using DE. Number one, it is essential that you only use FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth. Pool Filter grade diatomaceous earth has been heat and chemically treated and is TOXIC if consumed by animals or humans.

The second caution involves taking care not to breathe in DE when mixing or feeding it to horses or other animals. DE is a very fine powder that can easily be inhaled and cause respiratory problems.

 

Ta–ta,

Casie

 

Sources and Further Reading

Diatomaceous Earth

6 Diatomomaceous Earth Benefits

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

 

 

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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14 Responses

  1. Rebekah says:

    Hi Casie,

    I recently read about someone and their herd of horses and the DE worked for them as for as getting rid of parasites, Food Grade quality of corse.

    So I did a fecal exam for both my horses and they tested positive for Strongless egg counts, one has 1000 and the other 500. It’s been a week and I plan to retest the fecal again within 6 weeks to see results, I really hope this helps.

    Chemical deworming, although works if you do it right, but I also read why deworm a horse if they don’t have worms. So, I never followed what the general public do which is deworm a horse every 3 months or so, that’s barbaric. So when my horses fecal egg count gets to about 1000, that’s when I do a chemical deworm, but this time I’m trying the DE to see if that helps. I would only chemically deworm them twice a year, one in winter and one end of Spring.

    My Mare who is only 5 years old is much healthier then my Gelding who is 13 years old. I have been feeding my Mare since she was 1.5 years old with Garlic and she never contracted worms, was always the eggs, and it’s taken her 6 month to reach only at 500 egg count. My Gelding is doing allot better as this year will be two years that I have had him. His egg counts are becoming less each year with me feeding him Garlic on a daily basis.

  2. Jane Marchant says:

    How much are you feeding per horse per day ?

    • Casie says:

      I feed approximately 1/2 cup a day per horse, but you can feed more. I remember Joe Camp saying he fed a cup or possibly more to certain horses with higher FEC’s.

      • Rebekah says:

        I’m feeding both my horses 1 cup a day and will do this for 4-6 weeks, then will do a fecal count, and if eggs are less than 200 counts, than I will continue but only giving them half cup a day until all egg counts are next to none. For maintenance I will be feeding them 1 cups a week or maybe 2 cups a week.

  3. Is it harmful for the horse’s resporatory system if breathed in?

  4. Holly McKay says:

    I feed DE to my mare, and I feel like it has made a difference to her joint health and overall condition. I wet her feed and mix the DE in with my hand to prevent any DE from getting in her lungs.

  5. Rebekah says:

    Anything with a powder consistency I always add some water but not to much my Mare don’t like mush, as I am feeding them Garlic which is a powder consistency.

  6. Carol Thompson says:

    Hi Cassie,
    Can I ask for your permission to publish some of your articles in our horse club magazine? Full credit of course will be given and a link to your website.
    Thanks,
    Carol

  7. Colleen says:

    Hi, Casie! I have been feeding my 28 yr old mare, Cassie, DE as a dewormer for the last 5+ years and I can attest that it works! I have her fecal tested every 3-4 months and since using the DE she has NEVER tested positive for worms! I am a staunch proponent of natural products for my horse. I have had her for 6+ yrs, she was my first….a senior horse for a senior me!! We are proud to be metal free (no shoes, no bits) & her only health problems were caused by tick bites (Lyme Disease & Anaplasmosis). But she survived both & I strongly believe it’s because her immune system is strong due to natural care. Thank you for your site, I just discovered it & will be visiting it regularly!

  8. Myra says:

    We have fed our horses DE for about 4-5 years now. It works. We haven’t used any chemical dewormers since starting DE. We just add it to their grain/supplements rations almost daily.

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