Titer Testing

Do you want to add years to your dog’s life?

Please read on and consider the health benefits of “Titer Testing” rather than just revaccinating your dog because you got a card in the mail from your vet saying it is time to come in for your dog’s yearly “Booster shot.”

By correctly “placing“ your puppy’s shots their first year of life you can produce “just about life time immunity.”

There is a lot of controversy out there regarding when, how many and how often vaccinations should be given to puppies/dogs.  We want to encourage you to be your dog’s advocate for NOT allowing them to be over vaccinated.

Enlightened veterinarians and pet parents have become increasingly wary of the health risks, and lack of benefits, associated with repeatedly vaccinating dogs after their initial “puppy shots.” Is titer testing the solution to over-vaccinating? Here’s a fast track to help you wade through the glut of false information surrounding this simple blood test, and to help you decide whether or not to test your dog’s antibody titers.

What is titer testing?  A titer test (pronounced TIGHT-er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies in blood. Antibodies are produced when a foreign substance like a virus or bacteria provokes an immune response. Responses can come from natural exposure or vaccination.

Why test?  The parvovirus/distemper test can help you or others (vets, groomers, kennel owners, etc.) determine if your dog requires additional vaccination, and may save your dog unnecessary shots. Testing is especially useful when making a decision about vaccinating an animal with unknown vaccination history, or for determining if puppies have received immunity from vaccination (more below).

Most, but not all grooming, training, and boarding facilities will honor a “Titer” test as proof of protection, (In place of yearly vaccinations) that your dog is not going to be a health risk to other animals they will be around.

How often should I test titers?  Some vets test yearly, but this can be expensive. Others test every three years. Still others test five to seven years after vaccination. (Challenge tests show that successful vaccination against parvovirus gives most animals at least seven years of immunity. Distemper provides immunity for at least five to seven years.)

Dr. Ron Schultz, one of the most renowned pet vaccination experts in the country, believes that once a test yields strong titers, you need not test again.  Note: To get an accurate test, wait at least 14 days after vaccination before testing. Dr. Schultz also says the dog’s immune system will have produced memory cells that will produce antibodies when they’re needed especially for a dog that may have a weak titer after having previously had a strong titer.

Should I test my puppy?  Yes!  Ideally, puppies should have had their last vaccination after 16 weeks of age then should be tested to see if further vaccination is necessary.  The AAHA Canine Task Force Report (page 13) states: “Such titer testing is the only way to ensure that a puppy has developed an immune response after vaccinating.”

What do titer tests cost?  Costs vary widely, so shop around.  Some vets test in-house; others use outside labs. Some mark up prices a little; others, a lot.  Your vet might have a Titer Testing Day to test multiple dogs and bring costs down if you ask them to.

Isn’t vaccinating cheaper than testing?  No. Testing can be a one-time (or at least rare) expense and is no riskier than a simple blood draw. Repeated vaccinating is expensive and can potentially cause lifelong illness and shorten the life of your dog.

Remember:  Responsible dog ownership is a process of learning all you can to make life better for you and your wonderful companion.  We hope this month’s tip is informative and helpful.

Enjoy your furry friends!

(Info. for this month’s tip gleaned from our life experience and several articles and papers written by various qualified individuals. J)  We encourage you continue to research vaccine findings:   pro’s vs con’s.)