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Study: Most Pet Owners Oblivious To Dangers Posed From Tick-Borne Diseases

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Despite Lyme and other tick-borne diseases being on the rise, a new study found that pet owners are alarmingly unaware of the dangers of the pests.

More troubling is that they're just as confused when it comes to preventing the diseases they carry.

Julie Klam's beloved dog, Wisteria, got Lyme disease even though they don't live in New York City.

"I was shocked," she told CBS2.

Klam isn't alone in her belief that if you don't live in the woods, you don't have to worry. It's a huge myth, according to Dr. Carly Fox with the Animal Medical Center.

"Even in Manhattan, dogs that go to Central Park have been found to have ticks," she said.

While there's still a lot unknown about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, vets say the one thing that is proven is that oral or topical preventative treatments are the most effective way to protect your pet.

"This will not allow the tick to take a proper blood meal on your dog so in order for Lyme disease to be transmitted," Dr. Fox said. "The tick needs to be feeding for about 24 hours, so if your dog is properly medicating the tick will fall off and die."

Many pet parents have voiced concerns of over-medicating with the treatments, opting instead to use essential oils or even apple cider vinegar to repel the pests.

"What I can tell you," said Dr. Jill Shiffman from the Bergen County Veterinary Center, "there's been no studies supporting that they are effective tick or flea repellents."

Shiffman says in addition to giving monthly vaccinations year round, it's important to always check your pet.

"Places where there isn't a lot of hair and the skin is a little thinner," Shiffman said. "The ears, in between the ties, in the armpit area."

Many pet owners believe that ticks don't bite in winter. Not true, say experts, so it's why your furry friends need year round protection.

Another myth most owners believe is that vaccines are 100 percent effective. Vets say that's just not the case, which is why they recommend the vaccine only for dogs in a high risk area in conjunction with monthly preventative treatments.

Not all dogs present Lyme disease symptoms like lethargy and lameness, and may just need to be monitored over time. But Wisteria developed kidney failure from her bite, which Klam thinks she got while traveling.

"I can't imagine life without her," said Klam.

With extensive and expensive treatment, she's now back to normal and on a monthly flea and tick regimen.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case," her grateful owner said.

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