When we open our hearts and homes to companion animals, we make a lifetime commitment to not only love them deeply, but that they will forever get the exceptional care they deserve. Naturally, this includes excellent nutrition, their essential preventative veterinary care, such as routine wellness exams, dental check-ups and that our pets receive the vaccinations your veterinarian recommends.
Vaccinations offer our pets the vital protection from a wide-range of diseases such as canine distemper virus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP), rabies and more.
At the same time, there are a growing number of pet owners who wonder whether a conventional approach to revaccinating their furry friends is judicious. Protecting against these diseases can afford our pets a safer and healthier life; with the possibility of any untoward and unintended adverse effects that vaccines may cause, many owners may be apprehensive about giving them routinely. As a result, many veterinarians more commonly measure antibody titers when considering whether or not it’s necessary to revaccinate our pets.
Vaccination-site reactions in pets can range from lack of appetite, lethargy, fever or more consequential events such as autoimmune problems, allergic reactions and although rare, tumors or injection-site sarcoma. Even though authorities agree that vaccines are crucial to our pets’ general health, at the same time, there are those that concur that administering vaccines when it’s unnecessary may be risky for our pets. As a result, titer testing as an alternative may be a viable solution.
What is a titer test, what does it measure and how is it performed?
Titer testing is a tool that your veterinarian may choose to use to help lessen the risk of infectious diseases and also to ascertain whether vaccinations are needed. Put more simply; titer tests can access whether a prior vaccine is still protecting your pet. If your pet remains covered, revaccination may not be necessary.
Your veterinarian will draw a small blood sample from your pet for testing in an outside laboratory. The blood is repeatedly diluted followed by the dilutions exposed to an antigen. Antigens are foreign bodies in the body. The body produces antibodies to help defend against these antigens. If antigens are present, the immune system is alerted to start producing antibodies. The immune system is truly an amazingly powerful defense system.
The titer test measures the number of antibodies in your pet’s blood; checking out its immunity to disease. Titer testing can be very valuable, especially for pets whose response to vaccines may be inadequate, have allergic or other unfavorable reactions to vaccines.
In place of routinely revaccinating pets, titer testing is now a choice for owners. In an article published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAVMA), according to Dr. Richard Ford, emeritus professor of internal medicine at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine,” more clients are asking whether booster vaccines are necessary. He said, “I get the impression that some veterinarians are just not doing any vaccinations until the titer falls into the negative threshold level, and then they boost. So that might mean some dogs or cats will go on for multiple years without needing a vaccination. Some develop excellent levels of antibody that are sustained virtually for their lives following the initial vaccination series.”
However, if the test results demonstrate a low titer, your pet may not have a significant immunity. In this event, to ensure your pet’s optimum protection, your veterinarian will most likely suggest that this is the time to have your pet revaccinated.
At FloridaWild, titer-testing before revaccination is an integral part of our mission in tailoring veterinary care to the individual pet. To celebrate Titer-Testing Month, we are offering $10 off titer testing.
By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)