Does titre testing mean dogs and cats need fewer vaccination? That’s certainly what you read online.
The truth is more complicated than that and at times a whole lot more confusing!
We are not here to criticise: titre testing has an important role in protecting dogs and cats. There are also some important myths and misunderstandings that need to be cleared up if you want to make an informed decision.
Regular Vaccinations have been the most significant contributing factor in the reduction of serious infectious diseases among our canine and feline companions.
Thanks to effective vaccines we now see far less of the core diseases – Canine Hepatitis, Distemper and Parvovirus – in everyday practice and deaths from these are rare. Hepatitis and Distemper are now relatively rare and Parvo is certainly a lot less common in many areas and this coincides with the levels of vaccination protected animals in the population.
While as vets we all agree these vaccinations are necessary – the frequency at which they are given often causes confusion, with both annual and triennial products (every 3 years) being manufactured, but this is only covers some of the diseases we vaccinate against. On top of that we often don’t know how long immunity lasts, as is it specific to that individual animal’s immune system and overall health.
Regular vaccinations are given to maintain the animal’s individual immunity against serious core diseases. Once optimal immunity is established, re-vaccination is not necessary until the level of immunity falls. However, without knowing your dog’s immune status, we have no choice but to re-vaccinate regularly to ensure protection.
Over-vaccination is the idea that too many vaccines can cause illness. The point of titre tests is therefore to be able to see if a dog or cat really needs a vaccine. Some of the time they don’t, but without a test you’re essentially playing Russian Roulette.
Several years ago, triennial vaccinations were introduced which now sees many dogs now being vaccinated against core diseases every 3 years instead of every year. Confusion comes about though as they still need to be vaccinated every year against the “Kennel Cough” components in dogs for example.
- a) Titre levels have never been tested. Vaccines undergo challenge studies where real dogs are given real virus to show that they work, but ‘protective’ titre levels are only theoretical. We also don’t know what these titres mean for the newer strains of parvo for example, this doesn’t mean that they are wrong, just less reliable.
- b) There are two arms of the immune system. Titre tests only measure antibody-based immunity. For some diseases, cell-mediated immunity is the more important, and so we are assuming that an adequate antibody titre means adequate cell-mediated immunity too. It’s probably true, but it’s still only an assumption
While titre testing has been available for some time, the cost and complexity of performing these tests made it difficult for vets to recommend this option to dog owners. Samples had to be sent to the lab and were shipped out to the USA or UK and took several weeks to get results– until now!
VACCICHECK MAKES TITRE TESTING EASY!
The Canine VacciCheck is intended to be used as a diagnostic tool to evaluate the antibody response to the core vaccination or infection by Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Canine Adenovirus), Canine Parvovirus and Canine Distemper Virus in dogs, and the Feline VacciCheck for Cat Flu viruses in Cats. These kits are one of only 2 products recognised by WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Assoc.) and whilst they are not as accurate as the Lab run tests, they offer a reliable indication of adequate immunity.
Best of all – this test can be performed “In Clinic” with results available within a week.
Enquiries about titre testing have increased over the last few years so we know that this is a preferred option for some of our clients over regular vaccination.
We can now offer the option of titre testing your dog’s and cat’s immunity against the core diseases. The cost of the test is less than a third of the cost compared to the laboratory run test, in addition to a consultation fee.
There is some suggestion that unnecessary vaccination can lead to diseases involving the immune system. At this stage it is an association or theory rather than a confirmed fact. However, many pet owners prefer to have titre testing done rather than administer potentially unnecessary vaccines.
WILL BOARDING KENNELS ACCEPT TITRE TEST RESULTS AS PROOF OF IMMUNITY?
This is uncertain and you’ll have to check with your boarding facility first if you need to board your dog or cat with them. If we have done the VacciCheck, we would be more than happy to issue a certificate to state that your pet has been checked and found to have adequate immunity if that’s the case. The Kennel or cattery may accept this depending on their own individual protocols.
Most certainly your dog will need proof of Vaccination for Canine Cough as this is not tested for in a titre test.
If you are interested in titre testing your dog or cat to decide whether re-vaccination is necessary, please make an appointment to discuss this option with one of our vets.