Should you vaccinate or titer test your pet? What exactly is titer testing in dogs and cats? What are its benefits?
Titer tests are a great way of telling veterinarians and pet owners how much antibodies are present in a pet’s immune system. So, in today’s world titer testing has become an amazing diagnostic tool that can possibly decrease the number of vaccinations a pet needs to take.
What is a Titer Test?
In order to understand what a titer test really is, we must first aim to get a good understanding of how vaccines work.
Vaccines are designed to help the immune system fight off and prevent an infection from occurring. To do this, vaccines are often created by using the nucleic acids and proteins of the actual virus or bacteria itself. The only difference is that these proteins of the virus or bacteria are actually inactive or too weak to cause an actual disease.
So, when an animal is vaccinated against a disease, the vaccination is actually introducing the proteins of a specific disease to the animals immune system. In doing so, the bodies’ immune system will naturally begin to produce “memory” T-lymphocytes.
These T-lymphocytes now are able to remember what the disease (antigen) was like!
So, if the animal was to be introduced to a specific disease, then their memory cells would activate and prevent the infection from occurring!!
The concept by which the immune system is able to respond to the presence of an antigen, as a result of memory cells is known as cell-mediated immunity.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the immune system works, in response to vaccines. We can now try to understand what a titer test is and how it works.
A titer test is a laboratory diagnostic test that measures the level of circulating antibodies in the blood. Antibodies may also be known as an immunoglobulin (Ig), and are produced by the blood cells when an antigen is present in the body.
So, the purpose of antibodies is to simply protect and defend the body against an antigen or disease.
Titer Blood Test vs. The Routine Vaccine: Why Vaccine Haters Love the Titer Test
As we’ve discussed, yearly vaccinations do provide immunity against a specific disease.
Therefore, it is 100% plausible to suggest that post vaccination a dog’s immune system will produce sufficient antibodies that will keep them safe—this thanks to cell-mediated immunity.
So, what’s the big hype with vaccine haters loving titer tests?
Well, as they say—everything in moderation. Yes, there is no need to over vaccinate your pet, but at the same time, pet owners need to be sure that they don’t under vaccinate their pet. The yearly vaccine topic is indeed a highly debatable topic that is still under review by the science community.
Nevertheless, It’s important to remember that vaccines are there to help you and your pet. So, talk to your vet about what vaccines are truly important for your pet, and what vaccines are unnecessary.
There’s a Titer for (Almost) Everything!
There’s literally a titer test for almost everything!
A titer test is designed to test for the specific antibody of a virus or bacteria. Given that there are thousands of bacterial and viral diseases out there, you can also expect there to be tons of titer tests available!
Rabies Titer Test
Antibody titer testing for rabies is actually regarded as quite accurate.
For example, a dog who is titer tested for rabies can show high levels of antibodies against rabies. This could indicate that the dog does indeed have some immunity to rabies.
Now, immunity may be short-lived and dogs exposed to the rabies virus can indeed develop rabies. The effect of high antibodies against rabies may be caused by once again cell-mediated immunity.
Varicella Titer Test
The Varicella Titer test is actually a titer test specific to humans only as it is designed to evaluate the level of antibodies against Shingles and Chickenpox.
Fortunately, our pets cannot get Shingles and Chickenpox so this titer test does not apply to them.
Hep B Titer Test
Hepatitis B is a disease that commonly affects only humans. Dogs and cats cannot actually get this form of hepatitis from humans; however, they can indeed get other forms of hepatitis which can undergo titer testing.
Any unvaccinated dog is at risk of hepatitis.
Antibody Titer Test
An antibody titer test is a diagnostic tool used to measure the number of circulating antibodies present in the blood.
When it comes to our pets, the most common antibody titer test will be the ELISA test, which measures the antibodies present against a very specific antigen.
ANA Titer Test
The ANA titer test is also known as the Antinuclear antibody test.
It is actually a test used to diagnose and understand the levels of autoantibodies present in the circulating blood. The purpose of this test is to diagnose the presence of autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
MMR Titer Test
MMR titer testing is a titer test used to detect the presence of antibodies against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. As these are diseases found in humans, your dog and cat will not every require MMR titer testing.
Lyme Titer Test
Lyme disease is a disease caused by ticks.
Dogs who have been vaccinated against Lyme disease in the past may require a C6 antibody test. This is because Lyme disease antibodies can be present in unvaccinated dogs; however, it does not mean that a dog with Lyme disease antibodies may be capable of protecting itself.
So, a C6 antibody test is done in order to determine if the presence of antibodies is caused by vaccination or previous exposure.
The Titer Test for Dogs is Amazing, But Think Twice Before Saying No to All Vaccines!
Titer testing versus vaccinating!
This is perhaps one of the most highly debated topics amongst veterinarians and pet owners.
The important thing to remember here is that vaccines actually do provide protection for your pet against a specific disease. Whereas the titer test would simply measure the level of circulating antibodies in the blood of your pet. For some odd reason, vaccine haters seem to love the titer test because it may indicate if your pet truly needs to be vaccinated or not. Many companies and cooperations may push titer testing instead of actual vaccination, as its a more “natural method” of treatment.
But, the titer test is a lot more complicated than it sounds!
Even veterinarians and immunologist have such a hard time understanding how the immune system works and how titer tests can be tricky to read. So, the idea vaccine haters preferring titer testing can be far-fetched and risky since they would not have the proper knowledge to completely understand the basics of immunology.
For certain diseases such as the Herpes Virus, Feline Leukemia virus, Canine Distemper, Rabies, and Parvovirus the use of antibody titer testing does not indicate the current immunity of the animal- nor does it indicate the animal’s susceptibility to the disease.
What does this mean? Let’s look at an example!
You choose to get a titer test done on your cat in order to see if your cat has Feline Leukemia Virus or the Herpes Virus.
The titer test shows that your cat has a lot of antibodies circulating in their bloodstream. So in theory, one could assume that their pet is well protected from a viral infection due to high levels of antibodies.
This is actually far from the truth!
If your cat has a disease such as Leukemia, then this means they are permanently affected by the disease. So, in response, they will be producing a lot of antibodies against the disease.
This conclusively means that your cat is infected with the disease and so the titer test antibodies do not indicate an immune response.
Titer Test Near Me: Where Can I Get a Titer Test Done?
If you’re looking to get a titer test done for your dog and cat, then the best place to start is at the veterinary clinic!
You can talk to your local vet about antibody titer testing for specific diseases you may be concerned about. Veterinarians may be able to further contact laboratories that can do the testing for you!
Titer Test Walgreens: A Good Place to Start
Now, you might be tempted to visit your local Walgreens in order to begin titer testing your pooch! Walgreens does indeed do titer testing.
However, this is for humans and not pets.
So, if you’re interested in having a titer test done for yourself, then Walgreens is the way to go!
Titer Test Cost: Human or Dog, You Have to Love Those Prices!
The cost of a titer test may vary depending on the disease, region you are in, and your individual veterinarian.
However, for the most part, a titer test is fairly inexpensive. It can be as affordable as $40 to $80, while some specific tests against rabies or distemper may cost up to $120 to $150.
Titer Test Cost vs. Vaccine Cost
The titer test cost is variable, but it is generally cheap and can range from anywhere between $80 to $150.
Vaccines, on the other hand, can be a lot cheaper!
Vaccines often come as packages—for example, the DHPP-R vaccine might cost no more than $50 altogether. This means that you will be protecting your dog against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Parainfluenza, and Rabies.
A Dog Titer Test Cost is as Kind to Your Credit Card as it is to Your Dog!
Antibody titer tests can be kind to your credit card sometimes!
Every year dogs are constantly vaccinated against all sorts of viruses and infections. Many of these booster vaccines do indeed in-store cell-mediated immunity.
So, without a doubt, a small fraction of dogs will not require yearly vaccines due to naturally high levels of antibodies present in their blood. In such as case, it is plausible to say that a dog titer test can indeed save you a lot of money as you won’t be spending money on yearly vaccines.
Thank Science for the titer test! For humans and dogs alike.
Titer testing is an amazing diagnostic tool used to test the presence of circulating antibodies in the blood. Specific titer tests exist that test for certain antibodies against a specific disease.
The key take-home messages here is that titer test can indeed be beneficial in determining if your pet requires a certain vaccine.
But, a titer test does not mean that your pet will be completely immune to a disease. Additionally, a titer test does not indicate the rate of susceptibility to a particular disease.
So you have a question about titer testing? Let us know in the comments below!