A short story of geophagia – the earth eating practice
Diosmectite is a natural silicate of aluminum and magnesium, often in a form of insoluble in water powder for oral suspension. It is a kind of clay, and clays are long known in the animal kingdom because animals are believed to be the first creatures using that part of soil for self- healing. It was thought that animals eating clay provided themselves with some missing minerals, however, when tested, the soil samples consumed by animals, did not reveal any special chemical composition that would justify its consumption.
At some point, someone noticed that elephants which used to visit their clay “licks” regularly, took a break from it during the fruit season. Their ordinary daily diet consisting mainly of grasses and leaves was replaced with fruits – so someone wise enough asked a question –why more fruits in menu resulted in less clay consumption. Let’s perform a small experiment. Eat a handful of apple tree leaves instead of an apple. They are not poisonous but you can end with a minor stomach upset. So scientists made an assumption that elephants ate clay to prevent from food poisoning coming from leaves and grasses (organic compounds of plants can contain a lot of tannins or some alkaloids which can be difficult to digest or even toxic).
This hypothesis was proved to be true in a research conducted in 1999 y. on parrots. Birds were fed with seeds containing an alkaloid called quinidine. It turned out that those birds that were also given clay for pecking, had a 60% lower content of quinidine in the blood compared to their companions who didn’t eat clay.
Herbivorous animals and birds are the main group applying clay as self- medication in food poisoning which is often manifested with diarrhea. It seems that carnivores suffer from different diarrhea etiology and therefore require different kind of medication.
Grass-eating dogs drop us a hint how carnivores try to cope with gastric insufficiency.
The maned wolf from South America eats fruits of the Solanum lycocarpum plant known as Wolf’s fruit. Many plants from Solanaceae family is very toxic but our wolf can go many miles to find that specie of a plant. In 1969 some Brazil scientists discovered that wolfs in captivity died from some kind of kidney worm unless they were given Wolf’s fruit. By the way it is only by surgical removal of the infected kidney you can get rid of that worm…
Diosmectite for people treatment
In a comprehensive scientific review in 2009 done in France, clinical evidence of diosmectite treatment on children with diarrhea was evaluated. Diosmectite was administered in an amount of 3 to 6 grams for 5 days to approximately 800 children, aged 3-5 years suffering with acute or mild diarrhea while the control group was receiving only ORT (oral rehydration therapy). Compared with the liquid therapy alone, administration of diosmectite showed visible improvement in children on second or third day of treatment. No side effects were observed apart from the refusal to drink because of the unpleasant taste – what your dog can do too;-). Although diosmectite reduced some diarrhea duration it didn’t manage to cope with some other symptoms if they were present like vomiting or fever.
Why diosmectite works for diarrhea ?
There are some mechanisms considered to make clays ( e.g. diosmectite ) effective in treatment of diarrhea – one of them is theory that clay binds to mucus of the gastrointestinal tract what prevents its degradation and absorption of toxins, in turn it reduces inflammation as well.
The protective effect of diosmectite on gastric mucosa was demonstrated in laboratory rats by administering diosmectite in a so called pepsin challenge test. It was also shown that the thickness of mucus induced by diosmectite administration is the highest within 30 minutes after apllying and decreases gradually over 16 hours. Therefore, any medications should be given before serving diosmectite (at least one hour earlier).
In 2017, an interesting result obtained from in vitro experiment on human intestinal cells was published. Diosmectite bound NSP4 enterotoxin produced by rotaviruses. That toxin, among others, is the suspected cause of watery diarrhea.
Diosmectite In dog treatment
While browsing Internet I have not found any scientific contraindications regarding the administration of diosmectite to dogs. What’s more, many other formulations of the aluminosilicate group are used in the treatment of dogs, including calcium aluminosilicate (CAS), which reduced troublesome diarrhea in dogs undergoing oncological treatment, or the kaolin based formulations (Kapectolin) administered in gastritis. Last but not least you can find bentonite clay powder added to dry dog food.
So diosmectite is harmless for dogs unless some individual intolerance appears (what can always happen,)or even allergy to some taste-improving additives in oral suspensions available over the counter. Veterinary preparations available ( e.g Diomec Plus Paste or Critistop may also contain the MOS/FOS complex (manno /fructo-oligosaccharides, a kind of pre-biotics potentially binding mytotoxins), as well as dextrose or L-glutamine.
Contraindications: malabsorption or intestinal obstruction. Not for prolonged use.
Possible side effects: constipation, bloating, vomiting, possibly some skin symptoms (frequency of occurrence unknown), bezoar forming
(a kind of a false stone originated from accumulation of undigested substances in the stomach of animals).
According to Diomec producer 1 ml of Diomec paste contains 400 mg of diosmectite. According to below- given chart the weight depended dose should be administered twice daily .
Dog weight :0 – 5 kg : 2 ml
6 – 15 kg : 3 ml
16 – 30 kg : 5 ml
31 kg + : 7 ml
If you have some other diosmectite mixture (for example for human use) guided by hints from Diomec just re-count the amount of diosmectite and use the right proportion for your dog. But pay attention to additives!
SUMMARY: Diosmectite seems to be a good temporary medicine for unexpected mild diarrhea. Temporary means that it should not be administered for too long. Mix diosmectite powder with water (at least 30-50 ml for single serving) – unfortunately it can be tricky to administer it to your dog. Watch your dog closely to avoid dehydration. If the symptoms do not disappear but gradually worsen (fever, vomiting, blood or mucus in feces) and dog refuses to drink water see your vet immediately.
1 Klaus G, (1998) Klaus-Hugi C, Schmid B. Geophagy by large mammals
at natural licks in the rain forest of the Dzanga National Park, Central African Republic.
Accessed 18.03.18 https://static.cambridge.org/resource/id/urn:cambridge.org:id:binary:20161111045737710-0711:S0266467498000593:S026646749800059Xa.pdf
2 Gilardi JD, Duffey SS, Munn CA, Tell LA. Biochemical functions of geophagy in parrots: detoxification of dietary toxins and cytoprotective effects
Accessed 18.03.18 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1020857120217
3 Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Susan G. Wynn, DVM, RH (AHG), and Barbara J. Fougère
4 Christophe Dupont and Bernard Vernisse Anti-Diarrheal Effects of Diosmectite in the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Children A Review.
Accessed 18.03.18 http://www.dioclear.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Anti-Diarrheal-Effects-of-Diosmectite-in-the-Treatment-of-Acute-Diarrhea….pdf
5 Mechanisms of antidiarrhoeal effects by diosmectite in human intestinal cells Vittoria Buccigrossi, Caral Russo, Amedeo Guarino, Maiara Brusco de Freitas, and Alfredo Guarino .
Accessed 18.03.18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5404323/
6 Calcium Aluminosilicate (CAS) in the Treatment of Intractable Diarrhea in Dogs with Cancer Kevin A. Hahn, DVM, PhD, ACVIM 1: Robert H. Carpenter, DVM, MS 2 /1Gulf Coast Veterinary OncologyHouston, TX2Texas Enterosorbents Bastrop, TX
Accessed 18.03.18 http://www.jarvm.com/articles/Vol6Iss3/HahnVol6Iss3181-184.pdf