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Titer Testing for your Pet - an Alternative to Routine Vaccine Boosters

Did your pet visit the vet this year? Responsible pet owners typically take their pets for annual checkups and to make sure their pets are protected from preventable diseases through vaccinations.  Traditionally this would mean automatically administering a booster shot every three years, but many pet parents and veterinarians are now relying on titer testing to prevent giving their pets vaccinations that they really don’t need.

Titer testing

“Over-vaccination” can lead to allergic reactions, auto-immune diseases and in rare cases, cancer. So, determining whether or not your pet actually needs a booster is a very useful thing.1

When your pet is exposed to a virus, whether through a vaccine or from actually being sick, their immune systems respond by producing antibodies to fight infection. Titer testing tests a small amount of your pets’ blood to see whether or not he or she is already protected from the disease from a previous vaccine by measuring the amount of antibodies to a particular disease in the blood. 

If your pet is already protected from a disease, then they don’t need a booster shot.  This can be especially useful for pets whose health history is unknown.

Titer testing kits makes it easy to perform the test in-house instead of sending the blood sample to the lab, and pet insurances typically cover titer testing as an alternative to vaccinations.

Vaccine schedules

In addition to the rabies vaccine, every puppy should receive these 3 core vaccines between 8-16 weeks of age:

  1. canine distemper (CDV)
  2. canine parvovirus 2 (CPV-2)
  3. canine adenovirus 2 (CAV)

And for kittens, in addition to the rabies vaccine,  between the ages of 8-16 weeks:

  1. feline rhinotracheitis
  2. feline calicivirus
  3. feline panleukopenia (FVRCP)

For both cats and dogs, boosters should be administered at 1 year later, and then every 3 years, unless titer testing shows that the dog is protected. Here’s where you step in, unless your vet is already onboard.2

Be an advocate for your pet

If your vet automatically gives your pets boosters, it’s time to ask him or her why. Currently titer testing can show immunity for parvovirus, distemper and the adenovirus according to the AAHA vaccine guidelineslink opens in a new window.

References
1 Vaccines and your pet: What you need to know. (n.d.). Retrieved from aaha.org/pet_owner/lifestyle/vaccines-and-your-pet-what-you-need-to-know.aspxlink opens in a new window
2 (n.d.). Retrieved from avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/171101f.aspxlink opens in a new window