“Would you comment about doing titers annually after the initial series of puppy vaccinations, instead of repeated vaccinations?”– Suzanne via a question on our blog
Great question! I’ll answer this for both dogs and cats. Because of the potential side-effects of over-vaccinating our four-legged friends, whenever it is possible, I like to avoid injecting an antigen, adjuvant, or preservative into my patients. These three components are potentially in every vaccine.
Fortunately, we now have a simple blood test that measures a dog or cat’s antibodies to vaccine viruses or other infectious agents. This simple and cost-effective analysis is called a titer test. Most veterinary laboratories now perform titers for distemper and parvovirus in dogs, and rhinotracheitis, calicivrus & panleukopenia in cats. Unfortunately, although there is a rabies titer test, no state will accept a rabies titer in lieu of a rabies vaccine.
Titers can be drawn any time after your dog or cat is older than four months of age. Typically, Sunvet Animal Wellness Clinic will offer titers at your furry friend’s annual exam when they are about 1½ years old, or when you get a notification that a vaccine booster is due.
If the titers come back positive, then we know there is a protective amount of antibodies in your companion’s body to fend off that particular virus.
If a vaccine titer comes back positive, then we recheck the titer three years out. Research shows that once a vaccine titer is positive for two tests in a row, the antibody level is highly likely to remain high for the remainder of that animal’s life.
Sunvet offers a separate vaccine for parvovirus. So if their animal’s titer test shows protection from canine distemper, but not from parvovirus, our clients have the option to vaccinate their pups for only what is needed, as indicated by the titer results. This way they can avoid giving combination vaccines (vaccines for more than one disease) that may include diseases the pup has already shown immunity for. This is good news for puppies and adult dogs alike!
We also use titers for puppies older than four months of age to determine their protection status for parvovirus and canine distemper when their humans are working to create puppy immunity with minimal vaccines. This is a great way to measure their protection and ensure that the pups don’t get unnecessary vaccines. You can read more about creating immunity with minimal vaccines in an upcoming blog.
So really, titers are the way to go. Yay, vaccine titers – we like fewer vaccination shots!