Q: I live in the Sierra Mountains of California because there are no fleas. I wonder if this is a phenomenon nationwide. I’ve not seen a flea or tick above 3,000-feet. J.M., Cyberspace
A: “It’s not as much about the altitude as it is about the dry air,” says veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, distinguished professor, Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan. “As far as I know there’s no magical altitude cut off, where fleas don’t live; of course, the higher you go the more sparse they become. While fleas that live on dogs aren’t found where you are, there may be fleas that live on rodents and carry plague.”
So, if you moved there to avoid fleas, you might have to relocate at an even higher altitude.
Q: I’ve been told that flea eggs can exist for 10 years if they’re not destroyed, which is why I have had my yard sprayed. So you know, that killing fleas on the pet is not sufficient. And instead of toxic treatments, my veterinarian told me to use Head and Shoulders shampoo. E. S., Las Vegas, NV
A: Wow First I find it hard to believe that your veterinarian seriously suggested a human shampoo product to deter fleas on pets. And I’m not alone. Veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, distinguished professor, Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan says, “I thought I’ve heard them all – but that’s even a new one for me. No, there are no properties to deter or kill fleas in Head and Shoulders.”
Flea eggs can survive for up to 10 days tops, not quite 10 years. “If they don’t hatch in 10 days, they won’t,” Dryden says. The other life-stages are the larvae, which can survive for up to three weeks and the pupae, which can subsist for about six months to a year. And it is true, that if you see fleas on your pet, there are many more adult live fleas as well as the various other life stages that go unseen.
“Modern topical (flea treatments) and oral products are safe and can be used for the lifetime of the pet,” adds Dryden. “See your veterinarian to learn what’s best.”
That’s unless your veterinarian was serious about Head and Shoulders. If that’s true, my advice is to consider another veterinarian.