A growing number of dog owners are turning to titre testing to decide whether or not yearly vaccinations are necessary. Yet, some pet parents have never heard of a titre test.
As pet professionals, you are in an ideal position to discuss titre testing, which includes outlining both the pros and the cons.
So what exactly is titre testing and why the controversy?
A titre test is a laboratory analysis that measures the level of antibodies in the blood, as well as the existence of bacteria or disease. It is used to determine if a dog is immune to a virus or whether they require vaccination for protection. Essentially, it helps reduce the risk of over-vaccination.
Sounds wonderful, right? Sure, but historically there have been some concerns about this type of testing. For example, not all canine diseases and infections are tested for—kennel cough is one of them.
There’s also the fact there’s been some uncertainty over whether the results are a good measure of immunity.
For many pet owners, the decision around whether or not to titre test is based on weighing up the pros and cons. As pet professionals, you can assist your clients to understand all the positives and negatives.
Titre testing—the pros
Reassurance: Cats and dogs that have a history of poor responsiveness to a vaccine, are immunocompromised or have had an adverse effect can benefit from titre testing. If the results are positive, it gives the owner peace of mind that the vaccination is not needed.
Avoids over-immunisation: Titre testing may allow a vaccine to be skipped, which reduces the chance of over-vaccinating. Titre testing can be especially useful in cases where the dog’s vaccination history is unknown (for example, in some rescue dogs).
What’s more, for those pet owners who are against vaccines, titre testing is better than doing nothing at all. It may help them make an informed decision.
Checks immune response: When used in puppies, after the initial series of puppy vaccines has been administered, titre testing is an effective way to ensure the puppy has developed the anticipated immune response.
Titre testing—the cons
Consistency: In some instances, the results can give false-positives or false-negatives.
Reliability: Titre levels are only theoretical; they have not been tested. They also assume that high antibody-based immunity also means adequate cell-mediated immunity (they don’t actually measure cell-mediated immunity).
Furthermore, some titres do not correlate with immunity and, therefore, should not be used to determine the need for vaccination. According to the AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report, such titres include feline herpesvirus-1 and feline calicivirus, feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
Cost:Titre tests need to be performed as often as you would vaccinate. So, in some cases, the owner would end up paying for both the cost of the titre test and also the vaccine (if deemed necessary).
Protection: There’s also the risk that owners might stop vaccinating but then, over time, also forego the regular titre testing, leaving their pet unprotected.
In Australia, titre testing is available for Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus and Canine hepatitis. For cats, there are titre tests available for Panleucopaenia and both strains of cat flu— Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV).
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