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Objective—To develop a method to experimentally induce Borrelia burgdorferi infection in young adult dogs.
Animals—22 healthy Beagles.
Procedure—All dogs were verified to be free of borreliosis. Twenty 6-month-old dogs were exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi-infected adult ticks and treated with dexamethasone for 5 consecutive days. Two dogs not exposed to ticks were treated with dexamethasone and served as negative-control dogs. Clinical signs, results of microbial culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, immunologic responses, and gross and histologic lesions were evaluated 9 months after tick exposure.
Results—Predominant clinical signs were episodic pyrexia and lameness in 12 of 20 dogs. Infection with B burgdorferi was detected in microbial cultures of skin biopsy specimens and various tissues obtained during necropsy in 19 of 20 dogs and in all 20 dogs by use of a PCR assay. All 20 exposed dogs seroconverted and developed chronic nonsuppurative arthritis. Three dogs also developed mild focal meningitis, 1 dog developed mild focal encephalitis, and 18 dogs developed perineuritis or rare neuritis. Control dogs were seronegative, had negative results for microbial culture and PCR testing, and did not develop lesions.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Use of this technique successfully induced borreliosis in young dogs. Dogs with experimentally induced borreliosis may be useful in evaluating vaccines, chemotherapeutic agents, and the pathogenesis of borreliosisinduced arthritis. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1104–1112)