Vaccines and Vets

Aug 8, 2019   Tracey Aston   Vaccinations

Most pet parents believe their veterinarian to be the utmost reference for knowledge on their pets, and most cases this is true. Veterinarians do what they do because they love animals. To see if your veterinarian is right for you, our blog post Is Your Vet Right for You and Your Pet provides an expansive lists of questions you should be asking your vet, what you should be looking for and possible red flags you should be avoiding.

The hot button topic lately with pet parents is over vaccinating a pet and the risks that come with that. While it's true more and more veterinarians are opening up to the possibility of titer testing not all are on board or even share all the possible information with their clients.

A titer test is a blood test that measures the level of immune system proteins called antibodies. When your dog gets a vaccination, their immune system responds by producing antibodies which the body can use to fight off future infections. The titer test determines how many antibodies are still in your dog's blood after one or more years from the time of vaccination.

Vaccines are important because they inject a replicated part of a virus or bacteria that is dead or weakened, which allows your dog to build up immunity without getting sick.  Yes, that's exactly how it sounds; we are giving them that disease. Your pet can suffer from the disease or symptoms of the disease. If their body can't fight it, they can die from the disease. Lyme is a live vaccine meaning the pet can show signs and symptoms of that disease while their whole body has to fight it.

Some dogs have allergic reactions to vaccines, which can rarely be extreme and result in anaphylaxis. Some dogs can develop a sarcoma, which is a mass that grows around the site of the vaccination due to inflammation. This mass can become malignant and spread cancer to other parts of the body.

Dr. Jean Dodds of Hemopet suggests that dogs should be titer tested for distemper and parvovirus every three years to ensure immunity is maintained against these viruses. If a dog had been recently vaccinated with the DPV (distemper, parvovirus vaccine) shot, she suggests waiting three weeks to perform the test. Puppies, too, should be measured at least three weeks after the last vaccination and not before 16 weeks of age.

With all of this information available, many vets are still advocating for vaccinations, some even stating cost. Titer testing costs vary widely from practice to practice, some vets do in-house testing, others use outside labs and some markup tests and services a little while others markup a lot. Rabies tests, on the other hand, can cost considerably more, in large part because they are sent overnight to a lab. The cost of vaccinations is much less than the cost of a titer test and doesn't require a wait period or sending out samples, and for this reason vets will recommend it over titer testing.

When considering cost, imagine the costs incurred with an immune mediated dog. Pet parents love their furry family members and will support them; these diseases require medication, blood work, and lifelong treatment.  Is the treatment worth it? Yes, but it's not cheap!

Consider contacting Hemopet, Dr. Jean Dodd's nonprofit organization, for their pricing and her excellent reading of results. When comparative shopping, make sure pricing includes blood draw and shipping and read out of numbers!

Before jumping to the conclusion that vaccinating is much cheaper than testing, remember that testing can be a one-time (or at least rare) expense and is no riskier than any simple blood draw. Vaccinating, on the other hand, can potentially cause side effects and have risks. As a pet parent make sure you are weighting the risks vs benefits of vaccinating and not just basing it on money

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