Vacci-Chek Titer Test
We are excited to now offer a convenient, in clinic, titer check for commonly vaccinated for viruses causing severe and life threatening illness: Parvovirus, Distemper virus and Adenovirus. These diseases are vaccinated for, usually using a combination vaccine, routinely starting at 8 weeks old. Recently, studies have shown that many dogs do not need to be vaccinated for these diseases as often as was previously thought with some dogs maintaining protective antibody titers for more than one year after their initial puppy vaccines, or more than 3 years after their last ‘puppy’ booster at one year of age. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some puppies that are considered ‘non-responders’ that are shown to NOT hold protective antibodies against these serious diseases even after receiving their puppy shots on schedule. For these reasons, the Vacci-Chek Titer Test is valuable – it greatly allows us to individualize each dog’s vaccine protocol, giving only the vaccine for these diseases when blood antibody titers are shown to be non-protective!
Here are the fast facts about this new service:
When should my dog have their titer’s tested?
1) It is now our recommendation that every dog coming in as a 1 year old, after having received their puppy vaccines on schedule, would have their blood titer levels tested. This allows us to determine whether your dog responded well to their puppy vaccines and does not need an additional vaccine at this time, OR if protective antibodies are low and an additional booster vaccine is needed.
2) Titer testing will also be recommended whenever vaccination is considered ‘due’ for these disease – so for dogs who had received the Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus combo vaccine 2-3 years prior.
3) Titer testing will also be valuable for dogs coming into rescue, or with unknown histories to determine if they may or may not have been vaccinated in the past. It helps us determine whether a vaccine is needed or not.
4) The option to titer test will be very important for our patients who have responded poorly to vaccination (vaccine reactions) or have developed conditions (allergies, auto immune disease, endocrine disease, etc) where minimal vaccination is ideal.
Titer testing can even be done as young as 2 weeks after your puppy has received their final 16 week puppy vaccinations – a test at this time will give you piece of mind that your puppy’s immune system has responded well to the vaccines and that they are indeed protected against these dangerous diseases.
What will be the cost?
Unfortunately, titer testing should not be considered a cost-saving measure when it comes to vaccinating your dog. Although this in-clinic test is much more cost-effective than our previous option of sending it to an outside lab, it will still be more expensive to perform the test plus vaccinate (if needed) than to simply give the vaccine. The cost of this test is $91.26 plus tax (as of October 12, 2022).
What if I do not want to do the titer test?
That’s ok! We understand that even though our recommendation to begin titer testing at one year old will be made as a ‘best medicine’ recommendations, this choice is not the most cost-effective. Furthermore some dogs are very averse to having a blood sample taken, so many of our clients will decline and opt to simply opt to give the vaccine without the knowledge of the titer test.
What happens if my dog shows ‘good’ titers (protective levels of antibodies found)?
1) If adequate titers are found, your dog would not receive the Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus vaccine that day. Testing would then be repeated once yearly to check if titer levels are adequate and if vaccination is needed. Some dogs will go 7 years or more before titer testing reveals a booster vaccine is needed!
2) When adequate titers are found, a certificate similar to a vaccine certificate can be issued that should allow the dog to be recognized as having an ‘up to date’ vaccine status that can be used for kennels or grooming facilities.
What happens if my dog shows ‘low’ titers (antibody levels are found be below the protective level)?
1) If inadequate antibody titers are found, we are prompted to give the booster vaccine for patients healthy enough to receive it! After giving the vaccine, we would resume titer testing 3 years after this vaccine is given.
2) For animals not healthy enough to receive vaccination (auto immune disease or severe allergy for example) knowing that antibody levels are inadequate for protection is valuable information to have, even if it is decided that vaccination on any level is not safe. Adjustments to life-style can be made to ensure risk of exposure is extremely low, or other precautions that would not have to be taken if antibody levels were known to be adequate.
What about the other vaccines my dog receives (ie Rabies, Lyme or Bordetella/Kennel Cough)?
1) The Vacci-chek test checks titers for the Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus only, and will not give us any information on antibody levels against Rabies virus, Lyme or Bordetella/Parainfluenza.
There are titer tests available for Rabies, however they are send-out tests to outside labs, and are more expensive to run. The titer test for Rabies is also not considered the equivalent of having actually received the vaccine, so it is not our standard recommendation to perform Rabies titers instead of vaccinating unless there are extenuating circumstances. Because Rabies is a considerable public health risk, the prevention of the disease is highly regulated, with special rules we are obliged to follow.