Titer Testing For Dogs Explained: What Is A Titer Test?

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Annual vaccinations (aka booster shots) for your dog is a must. It is one of the topmost priorities for anyone who is a conscientious dog owner, or so some would have you believe. If your dog is a pup, or a recently adopted stray, there is no argument there -- this dog needs its shots. However, if the dog is simply returning for the annual preventive treatment, it is entirely possible that there is no need for those booster shots. This is the primary function of a Titer test -- to ascertain whether or not there is a satisfactory presence of antibodies in the blood.

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What is a Titer Test?

A Titer test is basically an ordinary blood test. A portion of blood is taken, diluted, and analyzed. If there is a sufficient amount of antibodies in your dog’s system, then there is no need for certain vaccinations to be administered.

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Why It’s Useful To Titer Test Your Dog

Hand holding vials of blood.

Blood Test.

Well, let’s ask the open-ended question: is it, in fact, useful to perform a Titer test on pets? I ask this, and I assume nothing because we all have a different approach to vaccinations. This approach has to do with humans and animals alike. Some use the Titer test as a means of supporting their anti-vaccine philosophy, but this is not exactly why the test was invented. The Titer test was thought up in order for us to have an indication of which vaccinations are needed at a specific time.

Nowadays, people use them as an excuse to avoid vaccinations altogether, and that is not necessarily the best thing to do. Is it useful? It can be in certain situations. As a general routine, I’d have to say no. It is not the most useful thing in the world, especially when taking into account the fact that Titer testing doesn’t come too cheap. But more on that later. 

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Signs it’s Time For Your Dog to Have a Titer Test

There is no clear-cut sign that reveals itself when the time is right for a Titer test.

As I have mentioned, puppies and newly-adopted dogs will have to get their vaccinations as a precaution and normal adoption procedure, but any time after that is up for consideration. Some vets recommend Titer testing annually, while others say every three years. There is yet another school of thought on this, which claims that a Titer test should be done five to seven years after a vaccination has been given.

Some vets say that once a dog has shown high Titer numbers regarding a specific disease, there is no need to vaccinate them for that specific illness at all, ever. They claim that over-vaccinating can only lead to harm down the road.

Now, there is definitely something to the claim that over-vaccination is not a desired scenario, and this is precisely why there are some parents who choose to not vaccinate their kids. I am not opening that heated topic up right now, but merely making a slight comparison. 

There are so many different opinions on this matter, and there is no one solution to this issue. Some dogs may never need another vaccination ever again after their first boosters, while others (who are more sensitive or lacking in certain antibodies) may need them annually. It all changes on a case-by-case basis, and you should probably consult with your vet before making any long-term decisions.

How is a Titer Test Performed?

Woman looking into microscope.

Vet Checking Test Results.

This depends. The test itself is a simple drawing of blood. What comes after the blood has been drawn -- that is what makes a huge difference in cost and efficiencyThe performance of the test plays out like any normal, run-of-the-mill blood test. The doc finds a blood vessel, takes a syringe, draws some blood, and places it in a vial for later use and examination.

In the past, Titer tests were conducted exclusively at laboratories. In recent years, more options have opened up for veterinarians. Nowadays, vets can conduct those same tests in-house, and spare the patient’s owner from added expenses like shipping costs, and other lab-related fees. 

How Much Do Titer Tests Cost? Where Do You Get a Titer Test For Your Dog?

The cost of Titer testing varies. It can cost you anything from about $30 to $200. The differences are vast, which is why it is not everyone’s first choice. I suppose if it was significantly cheaper than mainstream vaccinations, we would see more of a pull towards that practice. The thing is, it is not about the money. For those who advocate Titer tests, it is about avoiding causing potential harm to our furry friends by vaccinating them unnecessarily.

Getting a test for your dog is as simple as calling up your vet and asking. As I mentioned, some vets have a clinic where they do it in-house. Others ship off the blood to laboratories, and that is a process which usually takes more time and money.

Also, remember that Titer testing is done for specific diseases. For some medical conditions, you will find a Titer is not necessary since the vaccination is short-term to begin with. Before going in for tests, make sure you have all of the facts and numbers, and that way you won’t be spending any extra money or wasting your time with unnecessary appointments.

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Titer testing does not replace the need to vaccinate, but simply gives you a better way to gauge what is needed. Therefore, in a very dry and technical way, it is not a must. Are there potential benefits? Yes. Like I said, it changes on a case by case basis. Different dogs, different owners, and different veterinarians will have something to say (or bark) about this issue.

As for me? I go with what my vet says. She has been taking great care of my cat and dog for years now, and I find that she is fair and friendly. I get my animal friends vaccinated annually, and I haven’t seen anything so far to make me doubt the effectiveness of this method.

I am not an authority on this issue, by any means, so if you have more questions and are intrigued to see what this method can -- and cannot -- do for you, get in touch with your doggy doctor, and get it all straightened out. No article or opinion is meant to act as a replacement for the advice of an experienced medical professional. Whatever you end up doing, make sure your vet is on top of it.

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