Titer Testing

Aug 22, 2019   Tracey Aston   Vaccinations

Many pet parents concerned about over-vaccination don't realize there are options available such as titer testing. The majority of pet parents have never even heard the words “titer testing.” According to leading veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds, “A titer test is a simple blood test that measures a dog or cat's antibodies to vaccine viruses (or other infectious agents). For instance, your dog may be more resistant to a virus whereas your neighbor's dog may be more prone to it. Titers accurately assess protection to the so-called “core” diseases (distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis in dogs, and panleukopenia in cats), enabling veterinarians to judge whether a booster vaccination is necessary. All animals can have serum antibody titers measured instead of receiving vaccine boosters. The only exception is rabies re-vaccination. There is currently no state that routinely accepts a titer in lieu of the rabies vaccine, which is required by law. If your pet's titer levels show that an adequate immune memory has been established, you do not need to create the potential for vaccinosis by introducing unnecessary antigen, adjuvant, and preservatives into his body via booster vaccines. Instead, skip the boosters and have your dog re-titered in three years.” It should be noted, the titer test is not appropriate for canine leptospirosis, bordetella (also known as kennel cough), or Lyme disease, as these vaccines only provide short-term protection.”

Titer testing can be used for more than just lowering the risk of over-vaccination in pets, animal shelters and rescues could use titers testing when bringing in new animals or during an outbreak or potential outbreak to separate those dogs with less chance of being high risk for the disease. 

More Veterinarians and animal health professionals are advocating for titer testing. The Canine Vaccination Guidelines within the WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats state that, while antibody testing still can be relatively expensive, “The principles of ‘evidence-based veterinary medicine' suggest that testing for antibody status (for either puppies or adult dogs) should be better practice than simply administering a vaccine booster on the basis that this would be ‘safe and cost less.'”

Some dogs maintain antibodies for their entire lives to canine distemper, canine parvovirus, and canine adenovirus, said Dr. Ronald D. Schultz, professor of immunology and founding chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and an author of the WSAVA and AAHA guidelines.

In his controlled studies, he has found that dogs maintain immunity to CDV, CPV-2, and CAV seven to nine years after vaccination. He said, “The presence of active antibody response to these viruses is a clear indication of protection. There is no confusion on this point.”

Yes titer testing can be expensive, to save money, it can be done through protect the pets.com. They will tell you if your pet has immunity but won't give you specific numbers. When ordering the test, if you are going to need specific numbers, you will need to request that during the test. 

Just because your pet has immunity against rabies, and you have the rabies titer immunity, it doesn't mean you are exempt from getting the rabies vaccination which is required by law. The only way you can get the rabies exemption is through the state and must be followed. 

Vaccinations are not without risk and over vaccinating increases that risk even farther and could lead to various potential health concerns for a pet. Titer testing offers a safe, pain free way to test if a pet has to be exposed to not only the vaccine antibodies again but the chemicals such as mercury and aluminum that are found in some vaccines.

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