Have you ever heard of titer testing?
A titer test is a simple blood draw that checks a pet's immune status to diseases or vaccinations. If immunity is present, the titer further tests whether it is active immunity (the immune system is actively producing antibodies and will continue to do so for many years or a lifetime) or passive immunity (in which immunity has been passed from mother to baby and will typically only last for a matter of months).
Titer testing, which is used to test for immunity in humans, is now being used to test for immunity in pets. This has the potential to save pet parents both time and money.
The Kansas State University Study
Recently, researchers at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University have found a way to alter existing tests that measured a pet's immunological response to rabies vaccinations. The new test relies on the platform of titer testing and uses blood samples to measure antibodies that are capable of destroying the rabies virus.
If the pet has these antibodies in his blood (at levels of 0.5 units per milliliter or higher), it is likely that he has an active resistance to the rabies virus. These pets may be able to skip annual rabies vaccines and will likely only need a booster if they have been exposed to rabies or geographical regulations mandate it.
The Benefits of Titer Testing
Vaccines are important, and although side effects are rare, they can occur. In some cases, they may pose known health threats. For example, yearly vaccines for cats have been linked to injection site sarcomas.
Before the titer test, pet parents had no way of measuring their pet's various immunities, so pets with sufficient immunity against certain diseases, and whom therefore may not have needed a vaccine, were vaccinated anyway. The rabies titer test could offer a way for pet parents to keep their pets safe and healthy without having to provide vaccinations on an annual basis.
As it stands now, rabies titer testing has yet to be accepted by national vet organizations, which might make it difficult to find at your local veterinary office. What we do know, however, is that both cats and dogs display a positive correlation between antibody titers and a high level of protection. This means that someday in the future, pet parents may simply be able to order a rabies titer test and rest assured that their pets are immune, safe and protected from the rabies virus for years to come without having to undergo routine annual vaccinations.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.