Our diatoms (diatomaceous earth) for animals are a products of completely natural origin, safe for the environment and animals. As an anti-caking additive to feed / feed it is a source of available silicon and has a number of health benefits for the body and enables the improvement of well-being...

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Amorphous diatomaceous earth – its properties and application 2017, Małgorzata Wiewióra MScEng , Monika Łukasiewicz DEng, Polish Poultry, April number

The role of bioactive silicates for animal health, Guy E. Abraham, MD, The Importance of Bioactive Silicates in Human Health – fragment about animals

Silicon – an essential trace element in animal dietetics, Edith M. Carlisle, Department of Environmental and Nutrition Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Effect of consumed silicon and aluminum on the level of silicon and aluminum levels in rat brains, Carlisle EM, Curran MJ, Department of Environmental and Nutrition Science, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Silicon – an undervalued trace element in rats, LE Magazine April 2003, Raport  

Additional literature on the effect of silicon on animal health

Article published in South African Agri Silica, diatomite in animal nutrition

An article published in the bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences, the influence of diatoms on the state of transgenic goats


Amorphous diatomaceous earth – its properties and application, 2017, Małgorzata Wiewióra MScEng , Monika Łukasiewicz DEng, Polish Poultry, April number

One of the most important issues in breeding poultry and other animals is to provide them with a properly balanced diet and to keep fit and healthy. Breeders are increasingly looking for nutritional supplements and products that are natural, efficient and at the same time safe for humans, animals and the environment. The product available on the market that meets these criteria and gives potential benefits in maintaining animal welfare is amorphous diatomaceous earth (natural diatoms).

Characterization of diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth, diatomaceous earth or diatomite, are fossil remains of diatom shells, microscopic unicellular algae that lived in an aquatic environment millions of years ago, and then in the process of drying out reservoirs formed deposits of organogenic rocks (Round et al., 1990) [Fig. 1]. According to Fields (2000), diatomaceous earth shells in diatomaceous earth are mainly composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and traces of other minerals, such as: aluminum, iron oxide, lime (CaO), magnesium and sodium

Fig. 1. The deposits of diatomaceous earth

The mechanism of action of diatomaceous earth in an animal organism can be considered in two ways. Diatomaceous earth administered to animals for consumption passes through the digestive tract, in a small amount absorbed into the blood stream in the form of orthosilicic acid H4SiO4. This acid is formed by the reaction of silica with two molecules of water and is in nature a biologically active form of silica and silicon. The diatoms can therefore be a source of bioavailable silicon (Abraham, 2005). In addition, diatomaceous earth finds use as an antiparasitic agent (Quarles, 1992; Fields, 2000; Dawson, 2004; Maurer et al., 2009, Wiewióra et al., 2015). Moving further through the digestive tract, the diatom shells destroy the parasitic organisms and their eggs encountered on their way, and then they are excreted. These events are of a physical nature, the rough surface of the armor mechanically rubs against the parasites, causing their damage, which is the cause of death. In addition, cylindrical diatom shells in their structure have pores in their structure (photo 2.), absorbing water from the external environment, which affects the dehydrated bodies of pathogens and death due to dehydration (Haney, 2015).

According to Haney (2015), diatoms are not identical in all diatomaceous earth deposits. Freshwater deposits are characterized by a stable content of diatoms with a constant (cylindrical), durable shape of armor. The saltwater deposits contain a mixture of different types of diatoms of a different shape, and their fossilized shells are relatively fragile. The unchanging composition and permanent structure of diatomaceous earth are of great importance for the effectiveness of its operation. An important aspect is also the amorphous, i.e. non-crystalline, form of the diatomaceous earth used. Crystalline silica has very hard, sharp and relatively coarse particles, which can be dangerous for the walls of the digestive tract of animals – it is used, for example, in filtration systems. Amorphous silica is, however, more delicate, gently rubs against the digestive tract, without causing damage.

Fig. 2. Cylindrical diatom shells under magnification under a microscope

Diatomaceous earth as a natural source of silicon

Diatomaceous earth can be added to the feed to supplement silicon in the body. The negative consequences of a silicon-deficient diet were demonstrated by Carlisle (1972) – a deficiency of the element caused skeletal deformation and improper building of joints in chickens. Similar results were obtained by Schwartz and Milne (1972), stating the deformation of skulls and other bones in rats. With a low-silicon diet, the content in selected bones of calcium, zinc and magnesium was insufficient. In later years, the positive effect of orthosilicic acid on bone density was demonstrated by Calomme et al. (2002) in chickens and rats with ovariectomy (Calomme et al., 2004). In contrast, Calomme and Vanden Berghe (1997) found the contribution of silicon obtained from orthosilicic acid in extracellular matrix formation and calcium metabolism in calves. This effect may be caused by either collagen synthesis / stabilization or bone mineralization (Jugdaohsingh, 2007) as well as calcium metabolism (Carlisle, 1970, Laane, 2008). A study by Carlisle (1976) showed the presence of silicon in the active sites of calcium attachment in the bones of young hens. The increase in silicon content resulted in their faster mineralization, which was particularly visible in comparison with a diet low in silicon. The beneficial effect of diatomite on the activity and proliferation of osteoblasts has also been demonstrated (López-Álvarez et al., 2009). Diatomaceous earth is therefore used as a means to improve the strength and condition of the skeleton, which may be desirable from the point of view of the breeder and producer, and above all animal welfare.

Research conducted among others on rabbits show that silicon reduces the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in animals (Loeper et al., 1979). Supplementation with silicon feed may also have a significant impact on the proper development of young organisms, which is proved by Carlisle (1972) – day-old roosters fed with amino acid-based feed were later inhibited by growth and development, while those using a silicon-enriched diet increased by 50 % faster and developed normally. According to Nielsen and Krick (2015), the administration of silicon-containing dietary supplements is of great importance for owners of sports and utility horses, as research shows a significant decrease in the number of injuries in horses having access to this element. Silicon undoubtedly is a trace element essential for the proper functioning of metabolism and various structures of the animal body (Carlisle, 1986b).

In the 1980s, Carlisle (1986a) conducted work on the possible use of silicon in the fight against cancer, especially brain tumors. During the two-year experience, several generations of rats were fed with silicon-poor food, another was supplemented with sodium silicate. In rats with a diet low in silicon, the tumor occurred in 60% of cases, while the tumor did not occur in any individual in the second group. The results clearly showed that the use of silicon in the fight against cancer can be breakthrough. Unfortunately, due to the untimely death of Dr. Carlisle, the study was not continued. 

Zastosowanie ziemi okrzemkowej w profilaktyce inwazji endopasożytów przewodu pokarmowego

Istnieją doniesienia na temat skutecznego stosowania diatomitu w zwalczaniu pasożytów u zwierząt. W badaniach wykazano, że amorficzna ziemia okrzemkowa może z powodzeniem być stosowana u gołębi (zarówno pocztowych, jak i rasowych) w celu profilaktyki robaczyc oraz eliminacji już istniejących pasożytów przewodu pokarmowego (Wiewióra i wsp., 2015). Diatomit stosowano w ilości 2% w paszy i podawano przez okres 3 tyg. 300 ptakom przebywającym w 10 gołębnikach. Początkowo w kale gołębi odnotowano jaja nicieni z rodzaju Capillaria oraz Ascaridia, a także oocysty kokcydiów. W przeważającej większości gołębników zaobserwowano całkowitą eliminację nicieni oraz znaczący spadek liczebności kokcydiów wraz z wydłużaniem czasu stosowania ziemi okrzemkowej. Podobne wyniki otrzymali w swojej pracy Bennett i wsp. (2011) w badaniu na kurach nioskach utrzymywanych w systemie wolnowybiegowym. U ptaków, którym podawano ziemię okrzemkową (w ilości 2%, w paszy), stwierdzono w kale wyraźnie mniej jaj nicieni Capillaria i Heterakis oraz nieco mniej oocyst kokcydiów, jak również poprawę wyników produkcyjnych. Badania Ahmeda i wsp. (2013) wykazały natomiast potencjał diatomitu w zwalczaniu nicieni u owiec, a doświadczenie Fernandeza i wsp. (1998) u bydła. Jak informuje strona internetowa https://www.diatomaceousearth.com/ (2017), amorficzna ziemia okrzemkowa stosowana jako zasypka skutecznie zwalcza również zewnętrzne pasożyty zwierząt, takie jak roztocze (np. ptaszyńce), pchły, pluskwy, kleszcze i inne.

The use of diatomaceous earth in the prophylaxis of invasion of gastrointestinal endoparasites

There are reports on the effective use of diatomite in the control of parasites in animals. The studies showed that amorphous diatomaceous earth can be successfully used in pigeons (both postal and racial) for the purpose of prophylaxis of worms and elimination of already existing parasites of the gastrointestinal tract (Wiewióra et al., 2015). Diatomite was used in an amount of 2% in feed and was administered for 3 weeks to 300 birds in 10 pigeons. Initially, eggs of nematodes of the genus Capillaria and Ascaridia as well as oocysts of coccidia were recorded in the feces of pigeons. In the vast majority of dovecotes, complete elimination of nematodes was observed as well as a significant decrease in the number of coccidia along with the prolongation of the time of diatomaceous earth use. Similar results were obtained in their work by Bennett et al. (2011) in a study on laying hens kept in a free-range system. In birds fed diatomaceous earth (in the amount of 2%, in feed), there were clearly fewer eggs of nematodes of Capillaria and Heterakis in the faeces and slightly less oocysts of coccidia, as well as improved production results. However, the studies by Ahmeda et al. (2013) showed the potential of diatomite in the control of nematodes in sheep, and the experience of Fernandez et al. (1998) in cattle. According to the website https://www.diatomaceousearth.com/ (2017), amorphous diatomaceous earth used as a backfill also effectively fights external animal parasites, such as mites, fleas, bedbugs, ticks and others.

Other applications of diatomaceous earth

In the study carried out on laying there was clearly a beneficial effect of diatomite added to the feed on the parameters of bones strength, quality of dense protein and yolk coloring (Wiewióra, 2015). Analyzes of blood morphology, fatty acid profile of yolk or heat

Fig. 3. Comparison of the appearance of a hen fed a diet rich in silicon (left) and a diet low in silicon (right) [Carlisle, 1986]

According to the promoter of healthy food Tharpa (2015), diatomaceous earth, as a completely natural product, safe for the environment and not requiring specialized equipment, can be used for various agricultural purposes, including as an insecticide, protecting grain or crops, anti-caking agent or preservative of food and feed. Diatomite absorbs moisture, preventing caking and molding of stored feed (or other products) by sticking and separating each particle from the rest. This means less losses for the manufacturer.

The use of diatomaceous earth as an effective insecticide is described in Korunić (2013) and Fields (2000) – it is a durable medium, safe for the employee and the consumer, and at the same time effective against pests. The advantages of diatomite include its natural origin, which can be an alternative to chemicals. The diatom shells have the ability to physically destroy the insect chitin coatings (Ebeling, 1971). Diatomite can also repel insects flying or running (White et al., 1966). Interestingly, diatomaceous earth for pest control was probably used already 4,000. years ago in China, after previous observation of birds bathing in the sand and some mammals (Allen, 1972).


Diatomite is a completely natural product, safe for the environment and livestock. As an additive to feed, it is a source of biologically available silicon and has a potentially positive effect on the body and enables improvement of well-being. Diatomaceous earth can be an ecological, non-invasive for the environment and organisms of birds an alternative to synthetic agents against intestinal parasites and other breeding birds. So far, the negative impact of diatomaceous earth amorphous on the health or condition of animals has not been documented. Literature available at the authors.

The role of bioactive silicates for animal health, Guy E. Abraham, MD, The Importance of Bioactive Silicates in Human Health – fragment about animals

The role of silicon in the form of biologically active silicates in animal organisms has already been noted in the 1970s by scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles – E.M. Carlisle (research on chickens) and K. Schwartz (research on rats). Addition of one molecule of water to H2SiO3 metasilicic acid, transforms it in the digestive system into orthosilicic acid H4SiO4. This bioavailable form of silicon has proved to be an essential ingredient for normal growth, bone formation and other connective tissues in chickens and rats. In young, still growing bones, the concentration of silicon was present in the same proportions as the concentration of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. As the bone ages, silicon is gradually replaced with calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which indicates the important role of silicon in the early stages of bone formation.

Further research by Carlisle on the effect of silicon on the development and health of animals showed a high concentration of silicon in connective tissues and organs containing a lot of connective tissue. Silicon content in connective tissue, aorta, trachea and tendons was 4-5 times higher than in the liver, heart or muscles. Aging of tissues reduces the concentration of silicon in the skin and aorta, without affecting the content of silicon in the heart, liver and muscles.

Carlisle also showed that biologically active silicon takes an active part in the formation of collagen present in connective tissues (two-thirds of all proteins in tissues) and in the formation of the extracellular matrix and interstitial fluid.

Silicon – an essential trace element in animal dietetics, Edith M. Carlisle, Department of Environmental and Nutrition Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024

In the last decade, silicon has been recognized as an important trace element involved in the proper functioning of the metabolism of animals and humans. It was found that silicon plays an important role in the functioning of connective tissues, especially bones and cartilage. Abnormalities in the formation of cartilage tissues are caused by a reduction in the amount of components that make up tissues, resulting in an increased demand for silicon in the formation of collagen and glycosaminoglycan. In the case of bones and other connective tissues, silicon primarily influences the formation of an organic structure, more sensitive to silicon deficiency than the mineralization process itself. Silicon also supports the metabolism of connective tissues of the body, because it is present in an extremely high concentration in cells that are metabolically active in the form of ions. In addition, silicon reaches high concentrations in the mitochondria of these cells. Other studies indicate the contribution of silicon in the biochemistry of subcellular structures containing enzymes.

Effect of consumed silicon and aluminum on the level of silicon and aluminum levels in rat brains, Carlisle EM, Curran MJ, Department of Environmental and Nutrition Science, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024

The research was carried out to determine the effect of the ingested silicon and aluminum on the concentrations of these elements in the brain. Rats were selected for the study in two age ranges: 22 days and 10 months. The rats were given 4 types of food: 

  • containing a small dose of silicon
  • containing a small dose of silicon and aluminum
  • containing an increased dose of silicon
  • containing an increased dose of silicon and aluminum

The study was terminated at the age of 23 and 28 months for rats. Twelve parts of the brain were examined. Different concentrations of silicon in the various brain regions studied did not depend on the degree of silicon added to the food. Increased aluminum administration was, however, mitigated by the concentration of silicon in the brain regions studied, including those responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

It was also found that the content of silicon and aluminum in the brain depends on the age of the organism.

In 23-month-old rats no increase in the aluminum concentration in the brain was found, despite the use of a diet rich in this element.

In contrast, in 28-month-old rats, an increased dose of aluminum with low silicon content in the diet resulted in a greater concentration of aluminum in the majority of brain parts examined. In contrast, increasing the intake of silicon caused the deposition of aluminum in the brains of this group of rats.

Based on the above studies, it was found that the use of a diet rich in silicon counteracts the deposition of aluminum in the brain with age.

Silicon – an undervalued trace element in rats, LE Magazine April 2003, Raport.

Bioavailability and the effectiveness of silicon supplements: the slow and long-lasting process of rock erosion leads to their decomposition. The result of the disintegration are m.in. silicon compounds, such as water-soluble silicic acid or insoluble monomeric silicates. Silicic acid is present in seawater and fresh water. However, the content of silicic acid in drinking water is extremely low (0.1-1.0 ppm) and the attempts to increase its concentration ended with the conversion of added silicic acid into larger and insoluble polymerized molecules. However, we managed to obtain a stabilized orthosilicic acid whose concentration is higher, thanks to which it is more easily absorbed.

The most important criterion when choosing a silicon supplement is safety for health and bioavailability. Bioavailability determines the rate and extent of absorption of the drug substance from the preparation. The silicon compounds obtained by the synthesis contain silicon-carbon bonds that do not occur in nature and can be very toxic. Therefore, it is better to use silicon supplements from natural sources. Herb extracts contain a high proportion of silica, however, the silicon content can vary considerably as they are not standardized. The bioavailability of silicon depends on the efficiency of the stomach producing hydrochloric acid, which results in the formation of soluble silicic acid. Colloidal silicon gels are products containing insoluble, large, polymerized silicon particles existing in the form of a suspension. The bioavailability of such preparations is very limited, the digestive juices transform the colloidal gel into small amounts of available silicic acid. The stabilized orthosilicic acid remains the best absorbed, which was successfully produced by scientists.

Studies on the effect of the addition of silicon in chickens showed a 5.6% increase in density of their hip bones and a 4.25% increase in density of femurs. Based on the results of the research presented in the article, the authors draw attention to the fact that silicon has been recognized as a critical component having a positive effect on the adverse effects of aging organisms. Silicon can be taken with risks associated with osteoporosis. The increased amount of silicon in the body can be obtained by: 

  • consumption of silicon containing plants
  • extracts of plants containing silicon
  • diatom shells or other supplements such as stabilized orthosilicic acid
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