Ticks (updated)

If you are hiking in an area where deer reside, you will find ticks in the environment looking for a host to attach to.


I just found a tick on my Ridgeback in her armpit and the swelling was the size of a huge olive, and soft, not hard. The tick can’t have been on too long – it didn’t seem engorged at all, and I observed her scratching there a few hours ago – so maybe she irritated the area further that way. We were able to pull the tick off head and all. I even saved it in a jar just in case I can have it tested somewhere.

I have never seen such a huge swollen spot from a tick before, and am concerned. I plan to monitor her behavior and the bite spot and take her to the vet on Monday if she is still swollen or acts strange, but I wanted to know if anyone else has any advice or similar experience.

Also, any advice for chemical free flea control would be great. I just moved to West Sonoma County from a place where I saw one tick in 2.5 years, and there have been TONS of ticks on all the dogs (95% not attached – we check frequently) since the last rain.

Thanks for reading –



Hi Lindsay,

I grew up in the East Bay in an area that backed-up to almost 400 acres of open space where there were a lot of deer and cattle, and a TON of ticks. That open space was my childhood playground, and we’d get covered in ticks every spring and fall – typically after rains/when the grasses are green as opposed to when they are golden/dry. That was before the local Bay Area tick population carried tick borne diseases as they do now. Now, it’s more of a health threat to have a tick attached for longer than 24-hrs, when they were really just a minor nuisance back then.

In my experience, the best way to prevent tick borne disease is to use a preventative natural tick spray (see below) when you enter tick infested areas (anywhere where you could find deer = a tick area) – especially in the spring and fall. Every day you should inspect your dog carefully (especially under their tail, around the neck/ears/head, under their arms and in the groin area) for ticks and remove any ticks. [Incidentally, during the dry season, this daily inspection should be done for foxtails, too – foxtail inspection should also include inspection of the feet/between the toes and along their sides and flanks, as well.]

From what we know about TBD, it takes 24-hrs of being attached to the host (dog/cat/deer/person) for an infected tick to transmit common tick diseases to the host. So, if you can inspect daily, theoretically, you can remove ticks before they infect your dog with any serious illnesses. I also make a product to apply to tick (and spider) bites that includes essential oils that may prevent tick borne diseases, reduces chance for infection at the bite, and reduces swelling/pain – it is called Tick Bite Oil and works really well. It’s good to keep in your First Aid kit for when you need it.  Updated 2020: This product has been out of production for some time. Please stay tuned, the original Rara Avis Tick Bite Oil (and Chill Out Oil, Hot Spot Oil & Healing Green Salve) may all soon be returning to the SFRAW Apothecary line. So many have told me how much they really miss these products – I hope to begin to make them again very soon!

Check for ticks daily on your animals (and you if you’ve been out and about hiking)  From the link above – To remove the tick use tweezers and the following method/technique:

  • Part your dog’s hair around the tick with your fingers.
  • Place the tweezers around the tick, as close as you can get to the skin.
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
  • Pull gently upwards with steady hands. Add pressure until the tick lets you pull it away from the skin.
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water.
  • Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol … or flush it down the toilet.
  • If you’re concerned about tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing.

In SF proper, because we don’t have a deer population, we don’t really have a tick issue Update 2015: Well, alas, after a long, long history of almost no ticks in San Francisco – sadly, that ship has since sailed. Yes, we now DO indeed have an active and true tick population/risk for tick bites in San Francisco proper, unfortunately. Thankfully, I developed my own natural spray that works extremely well in repelling ticks that I called Tick Spritz and originally sold under my herbal remedy company, Rara Avis, in 2003. Tick Spritz totally works without causing any harm to your animals, children or yourself.

While the original Rara Avis Tick Spritz formulation is no longer available, I have put together a DIY Tick Repellent Kit with instructions on how to easily prepare + the two primary active ingredients used in the original Tick Spritz formulation that is available through the SFRAW Apothecary line. It’s not available to buy online and we do not ship, but it is available to pickup at SFRAW any time in San Francisco, CA.

I keep a bottle of prepared Tick Spritz in the car to spray ourselves and the dogs at the trailhead any time we hike in tick infested areas – Marin and much of the East Bay are the worst.  My Rara Avis Tick Spritz (non functioning link to the internet archive for the original raraavisherb.com website) works really well, but only for short periods of time – for a hike, really. And it washes off – so for dogs that go swimming on their hikes, it needs to be reapplied after they get wet. It wouldn’t work for longer than 2-3 hours at a time, and it really works best when used at the trailhead before walks/hikes. I have had people use it daily and it does work very well to prevent/minimize tick/spider/mosquito bites. It is also part of my heartworm preventative program to use it in SF whenever walking in places with mosquitoes.

When you apply Tick Spritz (or your DIY Tick Repellent) to prevent ticks, be sure to spray around the head/neck, on their legs and under the tail/belly. Ticks position themselves on the end of grasses and such with their arms outstretched, just waiting for a host to pass by. They are attracted to three things: carbon dioxide (exhaling breath/respired), moisture (again from the respiration), and warmth. When they detect these things, they hold on to what’s walking by to climb up on the animal and feed. So, getting the Tick Spritz around the head and neck is important, but do not get it in the eyes, right on the nose or spray in the mouth. If you stay on fire roads and wide, clear trails, there is less of a chance that you or your dog will picking up ticks than walking through grassy areas or areas with natural debris/fallen branches.

I hope your dog is okay! That the area was inflamed from the bite is not a good sign, but I hope it was a short-lived symptom that your dog was able to recover from quickly without medical intervention. In the future, if you work with a homeopath, there are remedies for this sort of situation so you can treat bite symptoms with homeopathy, if need be. Several homeopathic remedies could work for tick bite symptoms – you need to find the one remedy that matches the actual symptoms as presented by the animal best. Homeopathic remedies are a great option for acute and First Aid situations,  but I do not generally recommend using homeopathy – especially for long-term or chronic dis-eases – unless you are familiar with this modality of medicine and proper prescribing/dosing and/or working with a qualified homeopath.

In my experience, fleas are a totally different story – the way to prevent fleas is very different from preventing ticks. If in your garden, I highly recommend the use of nematodes that work to get rid of both ticks and fleas (alternatively, get a flock of Guinea Hens and they’ll do a great job keeping those ticks at bay!) Ticks will attach to anyone walking by, it has nothing to do with immunity (although whether or not one actually gets sick from the bite obviously has something to do with immunity). In contrast, flea infestation is a sign of a compromised immune system – and preventing fleas takes a holistic approach. Using chemicals and toxins for flea control is only more damaging for a dog/cats’ immunity and resistance to disease, so it’s not what I recommend.

I hope this helps!


Kasie Maxwell Grujcic

Founder/Owner, SFRAW

250 Napoleon St Ste G

San Francisco, CA 94124

415 225 0589


Follow us on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter @sfraw #sfraw

Kasie Maxwell Grujcic is the Founder/Owner of SFRAW with over 30 years of experience Natural Rearing & Nutrition. She is available by appointment to provide you with specific dietary recommendations, guidance on natural nutrition, Natural Rearing advice, and make supplement suggestions for your individual pet’s needs. She is not a licensed veterinarian and provides non-veterinary nutritional and Natural Rearing advice only.

3 thoughts on “Ticks (updated)

  1. The reason why there wasn’t much Lyme disease in the West is the Western fence lizard, tick’s favorite host. It clears the Lyme disease bacteria from ticks. Recent study, however, showed that by removal of Western fence lizard the instance of Lyme disease drops as well. Fascinating albeit puzzling stuff!