Posted by: My Personal Vet | August 11, 2011

Titer tests instead of vaccines?

Titer tests instead of vaccines?
Something to get excited about!

I’m really excited about a new titer test we are offering members of My Personal Vet.  The Canine VacciCheck tests dogs to see if they have immunity to Parvovirus, Distemper, and Infectious Hepatitis.  It’s not quite as simple as giving a vaccine since a small amount of blood must be drawn – but it is much safer than over-vaccinating!

VacciCheck Vaccine Titer test

This is the kit that Dr. Sharp uses.

So what exactly is a titer test?  Titer tests are lab tests that look at the amount of antibodies to a certain disease in an animal’s blood.  A high antibody level is associated with immunity to a disease.

For example, a titer test for Parvo looks for Parvo antibodies in your dog’s blood.  If the titer numbers are good, your dog is considered to have immunity to Parvo.  He won’t need to be vaccinated now.

A titer test can tell us:

  • if a recent vaccine gave a puppy full protection,
  • if a dog who is new to you (say a new rescue or foster dog) has been vaccinated or has developed immunity to a certain disease,
  • or if an adult dog had an immune response to a previous vaccine and so does not need a booster vaccine.

One important note:  While a high titer does tell us if a dog is protected, a LOW titer level does not necessarily mean that the dog is not protected. There are other factors that influence immunity. If your dog has a low titer, you will want to talk with your veterinarian about what that means for your dog, your dog’s risks for infection, and if vaccinating is a good choice.

Vaccine titer test on FlyGirl and Gemstone

An example of FlyGirl and Gemstone:

Here is an example of how the finished test might look.  These are 2 tests – a red heart and a blue heart.  One of them is GemStone and one is FlyGirl (my own dogs).  To give you a little background, they are both rescued border collies.  Gem was very very sick when she was dumped at my hospital at 3 months old.  Fly was taken from an abusive puppy mill situation by an animal control officer at 2 years old.  In my hands, they received the same vaccinations with the same space between them. Neither has been sick except for various eye issues.  They both have their blood and fecal testing done yearly and show no abnormalities there.  They both live with me and we are rarely apart.

In this test:  The “Red Heart dog” has no titers high enough to be measured by this test.  The “Blue Heart dog” has high titers and presumed good immunity to all three viruses.

Question:  Can you tell which dog is Gem and which is Fly?

Titer tests are not new.   So you may wonder why I’m excited about this new test. The older titer tests work well, but they cost more than the new test. The cost for the Canine VacciCheck is similar to the cost of a regular vaccination for these diseases. Plus, with this new test, we don’t have to wait while we send it off to the lab. We can run the test in-house and have the results within 45 minutes!

Now what?  What I’ve decided to do now is vaccinate the “Red Heart dog” and recheck in 2 months to be sure she actually mounts a response to the vaccines.  But that is a discussion you would need to have with your own trusted vet.

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