A titer test (pronounced ‘tighter’) examines a blood sample to see if it contains enough antibodies and from this, it can be determined whether or not the level of antibodies in the body is adequate. A blood sample is taken and then sent to a laboratory where the testing is done. When a foreign body enters the system (like a disease or virus) it will provoke the immune system into fighting back so titer testing is very important to ensure the body can protect itself.
Why have a Titer Test?
Vaccinations can be expensive for your pets and they can soon add up if you or your vet is unsure which ones they need. This is why titer testing is important as it can determine whether your dog needs vaccinations and can keep you from shelling out for unnecessary ones. It is the opinion of most experts and vets that a strong titer is a far better indicator that a pet has immunity to disease than actual vaccinations are.
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How Does it Work?
One millilitre of blood is taken from the sample given which is then diluted. Titer levels show how many times the blood can be diluted until there are no antibodies present. Titer levels are given as a ratio so if antibodies are present in the blood after a sample has been diluted 1000 times then it is a strong titer with a ratio of 1:1000. If no antibodies are present after the blood has been diluted twice then it is a very weak titer.
Why Should You Consider it?
Titer tests vary from practitioner but the preferred kind of titer test will look for parvovirus and distemper in the antibodies as these are the most important viruses to check for. Checking for these diseases will let you know whether your dog needs to be further vaccinated or not. Titer testing can conclude if a puppy has had vaccinations or not and is also very useful for determining what vaccinations an animal with an unknown medical history might need.
How Much Should it Cost?
Most titer tests vary from practitioner and different kinds of tests will cost different prices (such as a rabies titer test). Most vets do not actually perform the titer test they merely take a blood sample then have it sent off to a laboratory to be tested. Titer testing usually costs about the same (maybe a little extra) as vaccination and the results will determine whether or not your pet actually needs vaccinations. Most of the actual costs of titer testing will come from the delivery costs of shipping the blood sample to the laboratory the vet uses. Unfortunately, you can’t cut out the middle man as most laboratories that carry out titer tests only deal with vets.
Where Do You Get One?
Ask your vet for more advice about titer testing as they’ll have their own methods and price range and can give you specific information regarding your pets. Remember that you will need to wait a minimum of 14 days after any vaccination before a titer test will be effective at producing measurable results.
What to Do if Your Vet Insists on a Vaccination Instead?
You have the right to choose what’s best for your pet regarding their treatment options. If your vet is really pushing you towards a vaccination without performing a titer test then get a new vet because it’s completely up to you. Titer testing is not vital but if you choose not to annually vaccinate your dog then you must titer test instead to ensure that your dog has enough antibodies in its system to keep them protected.