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.
I would like to start 2016 by keeping it simple. Over the years I’ve written about research and my own experience that informs my views on pet health care. I’ve been working in the veterinary field for over 30 years with more than 20 years of holistic/integrative practice. I would like to sum it up with 4 simple ideas that I think will give every pet the best chance for a long, healthy life.
DIET – Nutrition is the basis for health. We simply cannot expect any animal to be healthy if they are not provided the raw materials needed to build a healthy body. Our pets evolved eating raw food. They retain the genetic programming for diets that are high in protein and low in carbs (the opposite profile of conventional diets). The high-heat processing of commercial pet foods destroys micronutrients and creates carcinogens. Pets benefit from a species-appropriate, balanced, raw diet.
Healthy Weight – Speaking of diet, keeping your pet at a healthy weight will help him live a longer life with fewer chronic disease issues like arthritis. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs along the side of the body and there should be a narrowing at the waist.
VACCINES – Wile I am not against all vaccines I have found that the mainstream veterinary community tends to over-do it. Every pet does not need every vaccine every year. It is important to be sure your pet has immunity to distemper and parvo. Blood titers can be done to see if a pet needs the vaccine. Giving more vaccines than are needed does not increase immunity; it just screws up the immune system. The rabies vaccine is mandated by law and in my experience a healthy animal can handle a vaccine every 3 years. Other vaccines such as leptospirosis, lyme, and bordetella should be given on an as needed basis. DO NOT give more than one vaccine at a time.
MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS – Whenever possible, natural/holistic therapies such as herbs, supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy should be used over conventional medications. My main concern with Western medicine is that there are often side effects from such medicines that can be avoided by using more natural treatments.
SPAY/NEUTER – Recent research shows that sterilizing a pet before it is fully mature causes changes in bone growth. These alterations throw off the biomechanics of the joints and predispose the pet to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture. Spaying and neutering at any age appears to promote cancer. (Find research on this here) Depending on a pet caregiver’s lifestyle and tolerances and the pet’s behavior, it appears that it is best to hold off on spaying and neutering any pet until it is 2-3 years old. Consider Zeutering male dogs.
There you have it, pet health in a nutshell: feed raw, limit vaccines, go holistic, delay spay/neuter.
What have you found the most helpful for your pets?