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Titer Test:

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. 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.

Dr. Ron Schultz, one of the most renowned pet vaccination experts in the country, believes that once a test yields strong titers, you need not test again.  In Dr. Jean Dodd’s article on vaccine reactions, she quotes Dr. Schultz on the value of testing titers: “an animal with a positive test has sterilizing immunity and should be protected from infection.  If that animal were vaccinated it would not respond with a significant increase in antibody titer, but may develop a hypersensitivity to vaccine components.

What do titer tests cost? Testing costs vary widely from practice to practice, so shop around. Some vets do in-house testing. Others use outside labs. Some mark up tests and services a little; others, a lot. You should be able to have parvo/distemper tests done most places for less than $100.

Consider contacting Hemopet, Dr. Jean Dodd’s nonprofit organization, for their pricing and her excellent reading of results. When comparative shopping, make sure pricing includes blood draw and shipping.

Wait! Before jumping to the conclusion that vaccinating is much cheaper than testing, remember that testing can be a one-time (or at least rare) expense and is no riskier than any simple blood draw. Vaccinating, on the other hand, can potentially cause a lifetime of illness and requires multiple visits to the vet for repetitive charges.

Can I test titers immediately after vaccinating? To get an accurate test, you must wait at least 14 days after vaccination before testing.

What if your vet, groomer, spouse, best friend, kennel owner or day care proprietor says titer testing is “voodoo science,” that your dog needs continued vaccination even if testing indicates otherwise? Know that vets out of school longer than 10 years received little or no immunology or vaccinology training in school; they shouldn’t be considered experts unless they’ve devoted hundreds of hours to research and training. Others who want to influence you may have no training at all and may be acting out of fear. Do your own research and advocate for your dog.

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