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.]

By some accounts, it takes 24-hrs of being attached to the host (dog/cat/deer/person) for an infected tick to transmit common tick diseases. 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.

In SF proper, because we don’t have a deer population, we don’t really have a tick issue – but I developed a product that works extremely well in repelling ticks and I keep a bottle 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. Rara Avis Tick Spritz 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’s not really meant to be reapplied every day/every 3 hours – so it really works best when used at the trailhead before walks/hikes. I have had people use it daily though and it does works well to prevent tick/spider/mosquito bites. It is actually part of my heartworm preventative program to use it in SF whenever walking in places with mosquitoes.

When you apply Tick Spritz 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. I do not recommend using homeopathy 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. 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). But 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!


2 thoughts on “Ticks

  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!


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