What Are Vaccine Titers?
A vaccine titer is a blood test that measures your pet’s immunity to a certain disease by measuring the antibodies present in their blood. When antibodies are in the protective range, no booster is needed.
Vaccines are very important, especially for puppies and kittens to protect them against serious disease. However, excess vaccines can cause problems in many pets, including allergic reactions, development of auto-immune diseases and even cancer at the vaccine site.
Puppy and kitten vaccines series should start at 8-10 weeks. They will need a series of 2-4 vaccines, 3-4 weeks apart. Starting earlier than 8 weeks does no good and may do harm. In those early weeks, the immune system is not developed enough to produce a response. In addition, antibodies obtained from Mom will likely neutralize the vaccine, making it ineffective. Boosters are repeated every 3-4 weeks until your new pet is 16 weeks old to be sure that Mom’s antibodies are gone by the last vaccine. At any time during this series, there can be a window of susceptibility, meaning that your pet is not protected. That is why it is recommended that you only expose your new fur babies to healthy, fully vaccinated pets during this time.
When multiple vaccines are due at the same time, separating them by 2-3 weeks can decrease the risk of a vaccine reaction. This is especially true for pets under 10 pounds who are more susceptible to reactions.
These early vaccines are considered protective for 1 year, though for some pets, it may be much longer. After the 1 year boosters, core vaccines and rabies are recommended every 3 years.
Core vaccines for Dogs:
– Distemper and Parvo
Core vaccines for Cats:
– Panleukopenia and Rhinotracheitis
Next time your pet is due for a core vaccine, ask your vet to do a vaccine titer instead.
Titers can also be done for rabies vaccine, especially for those pets who are already immune compromised or have had a reaction to the vaccine in the past. Just be aware that the titer test may not satisfy your local rabies vaccine requirements and a letter will be needed from your veterinarian if a booster is not recommended.
Vaccines are not a one size fits all treatment. Additional vaccines are available for Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella and a few others for dogs. For cats, your vet may recommend feline leukemia (FeLV) or FIP vaccines. These are not needed or recommended for all pets. Ask your veterinarian what the risk is for your pet. This will depend on your location and your pet’s lifestyle.
When it comes to vaccines, some is good, but more is often not better. By giving vaccines only when your pet is no longer showing immunity towards a specific disease, you will be giving your pet the best opportunity for protection while minimizing the risks.