As holistic medicine becomes more commonplace and sought after in the human and veterinary fields, titer testing is also becoming more popular. Every pet used to get the same vaccinations each year, regardless of lifestyle or exposure risk. Slowly, leading veterinary organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), have begun recommending that each pet’s vaccination protocol should be carefully tailored, relying on long-lasting immunity for core vaccinations. Non-core vaccinations should still be administered annually, if your pet is at risk for certain diseases, such as kennel cough or feline leukemia. Core vaccinations, like canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, can be given once every three years, or titer testing performed. 

Since titer tests are not yet common practice in many conventional veterinary hospitals, we know you have questions about how they work, and how they can be used with an appropriate vaccination schedule, so we’ve compiled answers to your frequently asked questions.

Question: How do vaccines work in pets?

Answer: Vaccines are created from proteins of a virus or bacteria, but are too weak to cause actual disease. Vaccinating a pet against a disease stimulates the immune system to produce “memory” T-lymphocytes, which will remember the antigen (i.e., disease) the next time it appears, and will attack the antigen, preventing infection or disease. Antibodies are produced by the blood cells when an antigen is present, a process known as cell-mediated immunity. 

Q: What are titer tests?

A: A titer test is a diagnostic test that measures the level of circulating antibodies to certain diseases. Titer tests exist for many diseases that pets are frequently vaccinated for, to protect infection. Canine distemper, canine parvovirus, and feline panleukopenia are a few common titer tests available. 

Q: When should titer tests be performed?

A: In puppies and kittens, vaccines help establish immunity from infectious disease. But, repeated, unnecessary vaccines can be harmful if the immune system reacts inappropriately, making the pet ill. We recommend that young pets follow an appropriate vaccination schedule before switching to titer testing, as needed. 

Q: If my pet has a positive titer test, will additional vaccination provide more protection?

A: When a positive immune memory has been established through appropriate vaccination, introducing unnecessary antigen, adjuvant, and preservatives by administering booster vaccines is unnecessary. Additional vaccinations will not provide more protection for your pet, whose immune system already has formed memory cells that are waiting to attack the disease.

Q: How are positive and negative titer tests interpreted?

A: A positive test result indicates the pet has protective antibody levels against the virus or bacteria. A negative test result indicates the pet does not have protective levels of circulating antibodies, although a negative test result does not necessarily mean your pet is at risk of disease development. Some, but not all, antibody results correlate well with protection from certain diseases, while antibody presence may represent an active infection with other diseases. Other antibody test results indicate the pet has been exposed to an antigen, such as rabies or a tick-borne illness, but do not predict protection from the disease, or an active infection. A positive or negative titer test must be interpreted correctly, to establish whether your pet is protected from potential disease. 

Q: If my pet has a positive titer test for core vaccinations, do I still need to make a yearly appointment?

A: Your pet may have recently received positive titer tests for all vaccinations, but these injections are one small part of their total annual wellness visit. While lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations and titer testing are crucial for warding off disease, your pet receives many more benefits from preventive care. At Cranberry Holistic Pet Care, during annual or biannual wellness exams, we thoroughly check your pet for any sign of hidden illness, injury, or disease; perform routine diagnostic testing to establish a baseline; discuss diet and nutrition; manage behavioral issues; evaluate dental health; and create a parasite prevention plan. A wellness exam is much more than vaccinations or titer testing, and an invaluable part of your pet’s overall health care plan.

Q: Does Cranberry Holistic Pet Care offer titer testing for my pet?

A: Our team understands the importance of your pet’s overall well-being, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to promote your best friend’s health. To avoid over-vaccinating your furry loved one, we offer titer testing for core diseases, such as canine distemper, canine parvovirus, feline calicivirus, and others. By originally stimulating memory cell production through vaccination, and checking titer levels in the future, we can avoid excessive immune stimulation, keeping your pet safer and healthier. 

To discuss your concerns about your pet’s vaccination schedule and titer testing, schedule an appointment with one of our holistic veterinarians.