As the vaccine debate rages on it has now begun to include pets, people are becoming increasingly confused by sources offering contradicting information. But an alternative that pet parents are discovering is called titer testing.
A titer test is a blood test that measures the level of antibodies in a pet. Antibodies are produced when an antigen (like a virus or bacteria) gets a response from a pet’s immune system. A response can come from natural exposure or from a vaccination. Pet parents will receive the test results soon after, detailing the amount of antibodies a pet has against diseases like distemper and parvovirus, the two most important viruses. A titer level on a report will show as a ratio, and shows how many times blood can be diluted before no antibodies are detected. For example, a strong antibody ratio will show that if blood can be diluted 1000 times and still shows antibodies, the ratio would be 1:1000. Likewise, a weak antibody can look like a 1:2.
Titer testing is most useful when making a decision about vaccinating, especially when a pets history is not known. There's no specific amount of years that a pet parent needs to schedule a titer test, some vets recommend yearly, while others suggest every 3,5 or even 7 years. The cost of the titer test will also vary, as well as who actually tests the blood. Some vets do it at their location, while others use outside services.
Titer testing can also be done for rabies, but it will cost more because all rabies titer tests are sent out to a lab. Just like the test for distemper and parvovirus, the rabies test will show the pets immunity, and if they are particularly susceptible to contracting it. It may also be required prior to international travel. However, the rabies titer test results will not be accepted by animal control and other organizations in place of proof of a rabies vaccination. There may be exceptions though, such as a pet having an adverse reaction to the rabies shot, when a vet can get an approved exemption for a pet not to receive the vaccinations.
Ultimately, it’s up to the pet parent to decide what they want to do when making a decision on their pet’s health. There is no wrong or right way to go about, but by doing their research and discussing with professionals, pet parents can feel secure in knowing whichever way they chose, they are doing what they believe is right to give their pets their best health.