Sometimes deciding the appropriate way to vaccinate your pet can be very confusing. Beyond deciding which vaccines, there is also the question of how frequently should your pet get those vaccines. The vaccine titer is a useful tool that can help determine when your pet needs a vaccine and result in your pet getting fewer vaccines.
So what is a vaccine anyway?
A vaccine is a weakened form of the disease that it is meant to prevent. When a live vaccine is administered it will cause a mini-disease in order to stimulate the immune response. This immune response should then, in theory, protect your dog or cat from the real deal.
A vaccine is not 100% effective. There are many factors that contribute to a vaccines effectiveness. If a pet is sick, has a problem with their immune system, or is otherwise weak their immune response to the vaccine will be diminished.
What is a vaccine titer and what are the pros and cons?
A vaccine titer is a blood test performed by a veterinarian. It measures the amount of antibody in the blood to a specific disease. An adequate titer indicates that the body should be able to fight off that disease.
Pros: The benefit to performing a titer over blindly giving vaccines at predetermined intervals is that it provides a much more fine tailored approach for vaccination. The decision to vaccinate or not is determined by the individual’s immune response, not an arbitrary vaccine schedule. And because vaccines have been linked to autoimmune diseases and other chronic conditions like allergies, seizures, arthritis, endocrine disorders, gastrointestinal problems, and cancer – the fewer vaccines, the better.
Cons: A vaccine titer does cost more than the actual vaccine. But providing a pet with good health is definitely worth the extra cost. There is also a small possibility that because vaccine titer can’t predict future immunity, your pet’s immunity could drop in the months after the titer test.
For which diseases are titer tests performed?
The main diseases that are titer tested for in dogs are Parvovirus and Canine Distemper Virus. There are titer tests for Rabies but this is a vaccine that is required by state law. There are times when a rabies titer might be accepted by a certain jurisdiction, but you will need to contact the local authority that issues rabies licenses in your area to see if they will accept a titer result instead of a vaccine.
For cats the main disease that is titer tested for is Feline Panleukopenia.
If you are performing titer tests for your dog or cat make sure that your veterinarian is able to give individual viral vaccines. This means Parvovirus, Distemper Virus, or Panleukopenia on their own, not the typical DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza) or FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Panleukopenia) combination vaccines.
I hope that all of this information is helpful in helping you and your pets on your journey towards good health!
If you’d like more information on vaccinations, please consider joining me on November 3rd from 7 pm until 9 pm at WonderDogs in Berlin NJ for my complete vaccination discussion.
Peace, love, and plenty of tail wags~
Jennifer Forsyth, VMD