Titers: What they are and they they can help protect your pet

vaccine, needle, shot, injection, pet vaccines, dog vaccines

A Solution for the Vaccine Controversy

Let’s face it–vaccines for your pet are the source of much heated controversy these days. From severe adverse reactions, to vaccines being blamed for epilepsy, death, and cancer, the need to continually vaccinate your pet on a regular basis is being questioned by pet owners and veterinarians alike.

Whether or not vaccines are to blame for many of these reactions has not yet been proven if you want to get technical. There are groups on both sides of the fence, but can’t be argued that the safest thing for your pet would include 1) making sure your pet is protected against deadly diseases, and 2) avoid vaccines in a time when they are controversial, to say the least.

The solution: titers.

Titers are a blood test that measure the actual level of protection your dog’s immune systems has against certain diseases.

Titers are more expensive than getting the annual booster shot but having titer levels checked instead of jumping straight to the vaccine is the best care you can offer your pet.

Unfortunately we don’t know how long vaccines really last. That is because drug companies have to test them on dogs for their studies, and to fund a study for 7 or 10 years before releasing the product becomes very expensive for the drug companies.

Many vaccines protect against deadly diseases that your pet is susceptible to if not properly vaccinated. Parvo-virus is seeing an increase in Texas currently, largely thought to be due to pet owners being hesitant to vaccinate. Parvo-virus takes the lives of approximately 50% of its victims, and is effectively prevented with vaccination.

Another example is the rabies vaccine. Many pet owners are angry that the rabies vaccine is required, and that the requirements differ from state to state. Please don’t be angry at your vet for these policies. We don’t have anything to do with them, and are actually personally liable if we don’t strongly recommend/enforce these law.

Remember, the law is in place for the benefit of public health.

As a veterinarian who has been bitten more times than I can possibly count or remember, it is unsettling when the pet has never been vaccinated. I put myself in the position to be bitten, as a vet, but a child petting a dog at a community event is an innocent. I look forward to the day when the U.S. will be rabies free, as many countries are. Then we won’t have to even worry about rabies vaccines, but we can only get there by ensuring that our domestic pets are protected against rabies, and that can be done most safely by having your pets titers checked.

Your vet may feel uncomfortable mentioning and recommending titers unless you mention vaccine concern, as titers are far more expensive than the ordinary vaccine. The last thing your vet wants is to try and push an expensive service on an owner when it’s easier to give the $20 vaccine. Many pet owners would view this as money-hungry, even though it’s better for the pet, so please forgive your vet (and me!) for not regularly offering this.

In any case, you should play an active role in selecting your pet’s vaccine schedule. Ask your veterinarian what he or she recommends and be sure you are comfortable with the plan. Your pet is an individual and deserves personalized healthcare. What is your vaccine plan with your pet? Do you know anyone whose pet has suffered an adverse vaccine reaction?

Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

This post is part of the 2010 Blogathon Fund Raising Charity Initiative.

VetLIVE is trying to raise money for National Mill Dog Rescue. National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) has saved over 3828 dogs and counting. At National Mill Dog Rescue, “It’s all about the dogs.” NMDR has pledged to put an end to the cruelty and evil of the commercial breeding industry, more commonly known as puppy mills. Through educating the public and through the use of their 500 volunteers, NMDR is on the cutting edge of saving mill pets and helping improve the industry. NMDR is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

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November 14, 2010 at 07:21

Excellent info! It wasn’t until I read VetLive’s previous vaccine post that SOME dogs, especially small dogs and white dogs are more sensitive to vaccines that a few things clicked in my mind. ALL of my dogs have always experienced reactions from vaccines…. then again, I’ve always had puppy mill rescues and many of them tend to be SMALL, WHITE DOGS! Is it possible that dogs bred in substandard conditions and who are frequently taken from their mothers before 8 weeks are also part of the vaccine reaction puzzle? The vaccine scenario becomes complicated, however, when these same small white dogs need grooming and when certain salons, especially when grooming is performed at a vet clinic, want or require vaccines OR if the owner wants to protect their pet from specific common maladies of the general population at these grooming facilities such as “kennel cough.” Rather than see my pet stay in bed and be sick for 2-3 days due to a vaccine injection, titers would appear the way to go and be money well spent. Certainly something to consider for those who can afford it. Thanks for the info.

November 14, 2010 at 08:06

Thanks for the great comment Jenny. By the way, it breaks my heart this morning to tell UAPM that they missed the blogathon. Oh well, at least there will be future opportunities. As far as your question about the pups taken from their mothers too early…I mean, there has to be a link, it just would be unethical to prove it with a clinical study. Interesting thought.

November 14, 2010 at 15:41

HA! I just wrote an article about this this Saturday! :-)

November 15, 2010 at 22:33

I saw that! I think I left a comment? Great article from you, as always!

When are we gonna get you to guest blog? :-)

January 24, 2012 at 16:27

I really like this blog post article!