Vaccine Boosters and Titer Testing for Dogs and Cats
By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Nov 2, 2016
Dr. Greenway discusses vaccine boosters and the benefits of titer testing for dogs and cats. Topics covered in this video include the annual vaccination, booster shot, antibody response, titer testing, protective immunity, blood tests, rabies, distemper, parvovirus, DAPP, FVRCP, panleukopenia, antibody studies, exposure to disease and risk of exposure.
Below we have a vaccination schedule for dogs and cats with a brief outline of each disease you can vaccinate against, why you would, the pros and cons of doing so, and details that will help you make the best decision about your pet’s vaccination program.
For the vaccination resource for dogs click here.
For the vaccination resource for cats click here.
I’m Dr. Clayton Greenway with healthcareforpets.com. What I want to talk about is vaccine boosters and something called titer testing. The first thing I’ll say is that clients are always surprised how often we have to booster vaccines in our pets and you have to remember that animals are much more intimately exposed to the environment. They’ve got their mouths on the ground, they pick up dirty things, that gives them a higher risk of being exposed to these diseases so we have to keep up their protection against them by boostering these vaccinations.
So as far as boosters are concerned we have to think about how long does a vaccine last? And this concept is known as duration of immunity. This term basically means that when you give a vaccine, it’s guaranteed to last a certain amount of time but in a lot of pets those vaccinations will actually last longer than that. So you have a choice to just go ahead and booster at the end of the guaranteed amount of time or you could do something called titer testing to determine if you really need to booster that vaccine or not.
So titer testing is a blood test and it measures the number of antibodies that are in your pet’s bloodstream to that disease that you’re vaccinating for. If it’s over a certain level, it means that they have protective immunity against that and they don’t require a vaccine to booster it. If it comes underneath this particular level then it means that they need another vaccination to boost those antibodies up to a protective level.
Doing titer testing is something I want every client to do because it cuts down on the need to vaccinate and I think that’s in general healthier for your pet but it’s very important that we maintain those antibody levels. The problem is that titer testing is more expensive. In some cases, the duration of immunity can be very long, in fact, in a study that was reported in 1997 there were dogs that received a distemper vaccine. This is one of the core vaccines here in Canada that we give to every dog and they were found to have antibodies and were therefore protected for at least ten years after vaccination, according to this study. The current recommendation is to give this vaccine every three years to guarantee protection but if you wanted to invest in regular titer testing for your dog, you could potentially only be boostering this somewhere between every five and ten years. So if you don’t like the idea of vaccination for your pet or think it’s unnatural or want to avoid it if you can, I really recommend titer testing to determine if you need that booster or not.
Review the information in our vaccine program about the different vaccines, why you would give them and which ones you would select. We’ve developed a program called the vaccination plan generator. What this does is it allows you to read about each vaccine that you think your pet should get and it allows you to check it off and then you can print it out and take it to your vet and see if they agree with your assessment of which vaccines you want to give and the risks that your pet has based on its lifestyle and whether that plan is effective or not. I’ve tried to put this together in plain language so that you can understand why you would give that vaccine or not and whether you want to select it.
So please have a look at our other videos about general vaccination and about vaccine reactions here at healthcareforpets.com.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.