For most of us who share our lives with dogs, making sure they are vaccinated tops the list of preventive-care tasks. We mindfully take our puppies or newly adopted dogs for their recommended vaccines. We routinely return to our veterinarian or vaccine clinic when that postcard or email arrives, reminding us that our dogs are due for booster shots. We know vaccination offers critical protection from diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus, rabies and more.
However, many of us question the concept of “routine” when it comes to vaccinations. While grateful for the protection that vaccines offer, we are increasingly aware of their possible unintended consequences. That’s where titer testing comes in.
Titer tests are among the tools that dog owners and veterinarians can use to help minimize the risks of both infectious diseases and unnecessary vaccinations. Simply put, these tests can tell you if a previous vaccine is still protecting your dog. If it’s still working, you don’t have to revaccinate.
Is titer testing the solution to the over-vaccination problem?
Here’s a crash course to help you muddle through the mire of misinformation surrounding this simple blood test, and to help you decide whether or not to test your dog’s antibody titers.
What is Titer Testing?
A titer test (pronounced TIGHT er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies to disease in blood. Antibodies are produced when an antigen (like a virus or bacteria) provokes a response from the immune system. This response can come from natural exposure or from vaccination.
Note: titering is also called serum vaccine antibody titering and serologic vaccine titering.
How is the Test Performed?
Your test result will have an explanation of what your pet’s test result means. But if you want to know more, here’s the test in a nutshell: First, one mL of blood is drawn. The sample is then diluted.
Titer levels, expressed as ratios, indicate how many times blood can be diluted before no antibodies are detected.
If blood can be diluted a 1000 times and still show antibodies, the ratio would be 1:1000.
This is a “strong” titer. A titer of 1:2 would be weak.
What results can you get from the vaccicheck?
There are 4 dots on the test strip:
The top is the check mark that shows that the test has worked well.
The second dot is hepatitis, dot 3 is parvo and the lower dot is dog disease.
The results for all three diseases are indicated in numbers from 0 to 6
In principle, the dot must be equal or darker than the check dot. The color of the check dot is referred to as an S3
S0, S1 and S2 are negative
S3, S4, S5 and S6 are positive
The results can be read from the Comb Scale
Should I Test for All Diseases?
The most recommended test examines antibodies for both parvovirus and distemper, the two most important viruses. Rabies titers are also often tested. Usually, for most dogs, tests for other diseases are generally not considered useful or necessary.
Why Titer Test?
The parvovirus/distemper test can help you or others (vets, groomers, kennel owners, etc.) determine if your dog requires additional vaccination, and may save your dog unnecessary shots. It is especially useful when making a decision about vaccinating an animal with unknown vaccination history, or for determining if puppies have received immunity from vaccination.
Most experts believe strong titers are a more reliable indication of immunity than vaccination: tests show the actual immune response, not just the attempt to cause an immune response by vaccination.
Do not expect, however, that everyone will accept test results in place of proof of vaccination. For dog shows or animals hotels this may be required.....