WHAT IS TITER TESTING?
A titer test is a blood sample that measures the antibodies against certain viruses and other infectious diseases. Essentially, the test measures whether your dog is more prone to getting a particular disease or whether they are more resistant (if they should come in contact with it). Currently there is very accurate Titer testing for the “core” diseases such as parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis in dogs, rabies and panleukopenia in cats. In some cases, dogs and cats may not need a booster vaccine, and titer testing can determine if they developed enough antibodies from the first vaccine to forgo the booster.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The procedure is very simple and painless. Taking a blood sample from your pet will either be sent off to a lab or tested in your Vets office. What this will determine is if the test sample, combined with a virus antigen has resistance to the virus and at what strength. If your pets result shows a high antibody count, then this means the titer test results are very strong. Alternatively if the result showed a low antibody count, this would be very weak. Pretty much, the test determines how many antibodies against the tested disease are present in your dogs blood. The more antibodies present, the more likely that your dog does not need a vaccine or a booster. The following image shows the results of a titer test done on two different dogs for the same diseases:
ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN ABOUT TITER TESTS
Titer testing can be done at your veterinary office, but the sample usually gets sent off to a lab for analysis. There is a small community within the practice that discredit this procedure and recommend a vaccine protocol based on time and not necessarily on need. We are lucky to have numerous well informed Veterinarians in Vancouver, as most support this simple test.
The most recommended test examines antibodies for both parvovirus and distemper, the two most important viruses. Rabies titers are also often tested. Rabies immunisation in particular is important if crossing international boundaries as it is mandated by law to have your pet immunised against this disease. A Titter test is allowable in most cases instead of the vaccine certificate combined with a letter from your Veterinarian.
WHY SHOULD YOU TITER TEST YOUR DOG?
Titer testing can help you determine whether your dog has enough antibodies to protect themselves against certain diseases, and avoid any vaccines or boosters that are unnecessary. This information can be especially useful if you are adopting a dog with an unknown history to avoid over vaccination, or it can help determine if your puppy needs a booster.
A common misconception is that by vaccinating your pet, he or she is now protected against the particular disease. Unfortunately this is not always the case. For example, if you vaccinate a young puppy (about 6 weeks of age) there is only a 50:50 chance that the vaccine immunized the dog. Why? Because when the puppy receives the colostrum from the mother, it contains antibodies against disease such as parvo and distemper. These antibodies from the mother also prevent the puppy’s immune system from making antibodies against the vaccine, rendering it useless. A titer test given after the initial puppy vaccines will let you know whether the first vaccine was successful or whether a booster is needed.
HOW OFTEN DOES TITER TESTING NEED TO BE DONE?
Knowing when to titer test can save you time and money and most importantly keep your pets healthy.
If you own a puppy or kitten, the first titer should be done after the first vaccine is given, but before the booster. This will help you determine if a booster is necessary or if the original vaccine provided your pet with enough immunity.
If you are rescuing a pet with an unknown history, it can be helpful to do a titer right away to determine whether the animal has already been vaccinated earlier in life. If they have, you can save your money from a unnecessary immunization and you can avoid over vaccinating your new family member.
WHAT DOES A “WEAK” TITER TEST MEAN?
Over time, the results of each future titer test may show lower antibodies against a disease. Does this mean we should rush to the vet for another vaccine? Not if your pet has had strong titer results in the past. The antibody levels in your pets blood may minimize over time but this is not a bad thing. If your pet was never exposed to the disease you vaccinated against, gradually the body will stop producing antibodies against it. It makes sense: why should the body work to fight off a virus it has never come in contact with?
The good news is, your pets immune system contains something called memory cells. Memory cells remember the diseases that your pet has produced antibodies against in the past. Should your pet suddenly be exposed to the disease, memory cells will stimulate the body to produce those same antibodies again to fight the disease and titer results will rise.
True Carnivores recommends a few wonderful veterinarians, and we would love to meet you and your pup! For more information please feel free to call us at:604-267-3647 or visit our raw pet food store in Vancouver, conveniently located in the Kerrisdale area! Don’t worry we also offer raw pet food delivery.