3 Things to ask about titers for your pet

Are titers a reasonable alternative to vaccines?

Debate over the safety of vaccines is an ongoing discussion. Some pet owners prefer not to administer vaccines to their dogs and cats and want to know about the option of titers. Are titers a replacement for vaccines, and are they sufficient to protect your pets?

What is a “titer”?

A blood titer shows the amount of a particular antibody in the system. If sufficient antibodies are in the blood to fight a disease, a vaccine can sometimes be avoided. The blood titer is a method of “challenging” the need for a vaccine. Titers are available for core vaccines given to cats and dogs.

To perform a titer test, a technician shaves the pet’s neck or leg if the fur is long or thick. “Shaving is critical to prevent pain and allow the technician to properly see the blood vessel to minimize the trauma of the blood draw,” explained Dr. Julie Reck of Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill.

Can titers be used in place of all vaccines?

“South Carolina will not accept rabies titers for any reason,” Reck said. “So a vaccine must be given to comply to with the law. The same is true in North Carolina. Rabies is the only legally required vaccine, so any other vaccines could receive a titer if the test exists.”

What are the disadvantages of titers?

1. Titers last for only a short period of time, so most titers need to be performed yearly. “However, some titers can be performed every 3 years just as some vaccines can be administered every 3 years, depending on the geographical area and the risk of disease to the patient,” Reck explained.

2. Titers are expensive in comparison to vaccines and can cost between $100 and $300 per titer.

3. Titers must be sent to outside labs and generally take 7-10 business days. In-house lab tests are not available.

4. Titers do not guarantee protection against a given disease. PetMD.com posted an article in 2010 called “The Truth About ‘Titering’”, which recently made the rounds on Facebook. The article stated that:

The experts seem to be of one mind on this: Titers are useful in legal and regulatory settings (for travel, for example) to determine whether an animal has ever received a vaccine for a disease like rabies. Titers do NOT, however, denote protection against a given disease. (http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2010/june/titering_or_vaccines-10182)

So if you want to spare your pet excessive vaccines, titering is an option for most vaccinations, but consider all of the facts and talk with your veterinarian before making a decision to withhold recommended vaccines.

By Beth Crosby