Some topical Flea and Tick Medications contain the ingredient Benzyl Alcohol. Now before you run around the house and throw away any products containing the ingredient here is what I have found. Benzyl alcohol is used as a bacteriostatic preservative at low concentration in intravenous medications for people, it metabolizes and is excreted by the body without issue. There is also a new head lice treatment for children and adults made from a 5% solution of the product (it kills the live lice but not the eggs). So when used appropriately and under your veterinarians supervision following all directions given there should be no overtly adverse effects by using a product with the ingredient in it. You should however keep your dog from licking the area that the product was applied to. And as with MANY flea and tick medications for dogs should never be administered to your cat without veterinary approval just because it says it is safe for small dogs. Cats have reactions to many medications that are safe for use in dogs of the same size.
There is one caution that does not appear on the warning label or the little leaflet that comes with the medication. You know that white piece of paper that falls on the floor when you open the package? Yeah the one you are supposed to read before giving yourself, your child, or your pet the medication? Well its not there anyway but probably should be. When Benzyl Alcohol comes into contact with plastic (think the liner of your dogs crate) it will begin to corrode the plastic if it is still wet. If your pet goes in their crate while the treatment is still wet and falls asleep on the plastic with the application area in contact with the plastic it will glue your pets fur to the crate! This is something that seems to have been reported twice by veterinarians as having occurred to their patients. According to package labeling the product should be dry within 30 minutes of application so a nice long walk or playtime outside after you apply the product will help it dry so that no adverse effects can occur. I tend to go on the side of caution and would keep them from licking the area for at least an hour after application and from laying in their crate. According to labeling you can even if you would like give your pet a bath and dry an hour and a half (90 minutes) after application and it will remain effective for the entire 30 days period.
Why am I not naming and shaming? First I don’t know how many topical flea and tick treatments on the market today whether over the counter or by prescription contain the ingredient. No medication made from chemicals is totally without its side effects. This does seem to be a relatively safe product when used according to directions (meaning that the treatment area should be dry before your dog comes into contact with your children or other dogs that may attempt to lick the area. Freak accidents occur and some dogs just like people have sensitivity to different drugs. That doesn’t mean that the company that created it was not trying to protect the majority of pets from in this case fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites. The product is used in lice treatment and has been tested safe for use in children 6 months of age through adults 60 years of age and with children being the biggest population that experiences lice infestation used appropriately and monitored by your vet this seems to be a relatively safe product.
Most of us myself included wish we didn’t have to administer toxic chemicals to our pet each month in order to keep them free of heart worm, fleas and ticks, etc. On the other hand the chemicals needed to treat an infestation of these organisms is so much worse and the toll they can take on your pet if treatment needs to take place can be severe. For those of you who use natural products to protect your pet from fleas and ticks you are lucky and probably do not live in warm climates where major infestations can occur overnight and you might only see a total of a handful of fleas in a year and only experience ticks if you take your dog into the woods to go hiking. I remember those days when I lived in NY and the only time the girls had to have flea and tick application was when we went to Florida for vacation. Last year we had the most horrific infestation that literally took months to finally get rid of and they were on flea and tick medication.
So yes it is a chemical and anything that kills fleas and ticks is a toxin. Overall (except in freak accidents) seems to be a “safe” ingredient. I think that is the part we all want to forget that these products are chemicals and are toxic and can cause adverse effects. That doesn’t mean the company who created the drug doesn’t care about your pets health. Lets face it the longer they can keep your pet alive and healthy the more you will spend on their products over the lifetime of your pet.