I have written many times about the use of vaccine titers to see if a pet needs a particular vaccine. Just to be sure we’re all on the same page I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain titers in more detail.
A titer is a blood test that measures the amount of antibodies for a specific disease that’s in an animal’s bloodstream. Antibodies are proteins produced by cells of the immune system that help to fight off infection. If a dog or cat has an adequate level of antibodies for a disease such as distemper, it shows that the pet’s immune system has the ability to fight that disease and the vaccine is not needed.
There are a few of shortcomings of vaccine titers. The first is that titers tend to fade over time. While a vaccine protects a pet into the future, a titer gives his immune status at this moment. A pet that has an adequate titer today may have a low titer in 2 weeks or 2 months or 2 years. For this reason, titers need to be monitored periodically. I recommend yearly vaccine titers.
Another shortcoming of titers is that a low titer does not mean that the pet’s immune system cannot fight off the disease. Antibodies do not remain in the blood stream forever. They are produced by the immune system when the body is challenged by the disease (either by infection or vaccination). It is possible that a pet can fight off the disease even though he has a low titer. However, we can never be certain that a pet with a low titer can fight the disease so in this case I recommend giving the vaccine.
A third shortcoming of vaccine titers is that the US government does not recognize the rabies titer. In other words, even though your pet has a high rabies titer, the law says he must be vaccinated every 3 years. For this reason, I do not find Rabies titers to be very helpful.
A final deterrent for getting titers done on pets is that they can be expensive – certainly more expensive than just getting the shot. On this issue I have good news for local pet caregivers. At Beaver Animal Clinic we have taken advantage of an offer made available by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association to have vaccine titers done at Kansas State University (the gold standard) for a very reduced rate of only $61.00 total. We are making it more affordable to keep your pet healthy, holistically.
Have you had your pet titer tested?