In light of concerns over vaccination, titer tests are becoming an increasingly popular way to assess the need for vaccination in our pets. Additionally, titer tests aid in deciding when and how to vaccinate a pet with an unknown vaccination history.
What is a Titer Test?
A titer test is a simple, inexpensive laboratory procedure that measures the level of antibodies in an animal’s bloodstream. Antibodies are produced when an antigen, generally a virus, foreign body or bacteria, produces a reaction within the immune system. Antibodies then work to protect the body against the same insult if re-exposed at a later time. A titer test can help pet parents decide which illnesses they should vaccinate their pet against and to which ones they might actually be immune. This, in turn, saves pet parents and their four-legged companion from the cost, pain, potential side effects and inconvenience of repeated shots. Although it is not necessary for pet parents to test their pets for all diseases, most veterinarians generally recommend testing for parvovirus and distemper, since these are the two most common and damaging viruses.
How is a Titer Test Administered?
A titer test is a simple, quick, outpatient procedure that can be done in almost any veterinary office. The vet draws a single mL of blood and dilutes it. Titer levels are expressed as ratios and reveal how many times the blood can be diluted before the test is not able to pick up the presence of antibodies. For example, a vile of blood that is diluted 1000 times and still shows antibodies would produce a strong titer test of 1:1000. Titer tests are capable of exposing natural immunity rather than relying solely on the immunity produced by a vaccination.
How Often Should Pet Parents opt for Titer Tests?
Although some vets recommend testing pets yearly, this can quickly become expensive and the consensus is that an annual test is not needed. Others suggest to test every three to seven years after vaccination. This time span will provide adequate time for immunity to become evident. If, when tested, a pet produces a weak titer test, it may be time for a booster shot. This should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with the help of your veterinarian.
Should Puppies be Titer-Tested?
The general thought is yes, they should. Ideally, puppies should have finished their first vaccinations by the age of sixteen weeks and should be titer tested at that point. The titer test will determine if the puppy needs additional vaccinations and will expose any inborn immunities the puppy might have.
Are Titer Tests for Rabies a Substitute for Vaccination?
The short answer is no. Although a rabies titer test will give pet parents an idea about whether or not their furry companion has developed an immunity to rabies, it will not hold up to Animal Control as a substitute for the actual vaccine. On the other hand, a rabies titer test may be required for pet parents who intend to travel internationally with their pet and should be considered when titer testing for other viruses.
Although titer testing has only recently gained popularity in the animal world, it is a worthwhile field that holds much interest for pet parents. In addition to saving animals from unneeded or redundant vaccines, the titer test also gives pet parents a unique view of their furry companion’s health and inborn immunities.
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