Is Titer testing a viable alternative to regular canine vaccinations?
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Is Titer testing a viable alternative to regular canine vaccinations?

Dogs
Health & Safety

The issue of vaccinations for dogs is something that most dog owners give little thought to, other than once a year when they take their dogs along for their standard vaccinations-sometimes without really knowing what the dog is vaccinated for, or why!

While there is scientifically little weight to the general anti-vaccination argument, as promoted by many individuals and movements that claim that vaccination is unnecessary and in some cases even harmful, the question of over-vaccination is one that bears more serious consideration, and this is a different issue entirely.

For people whose dogs react badly to vaccinations or dog owners that are interested in the issue of vaccination and potential over vaccination, looking for alternatives to the annual vaccination boosters that most dogs have is common. There are many different schools of thought in this area, one of which relates to something called Titer testing-and in this article, we will look at over vaccination, and Titer testing as an alternative in more detail.

Read on to learn more.

What is over vaccination?

Over vaccination or over vaccinating means providing vaccinations that are not required-either because the dog retains the protection of their previous vaccinations and/or boosters, or because they have a natural resistance and partial immunity to some of the common vaccinatable health conditions.

When dogs receive their first injections and annual boosters, they receive coverage against several transmissible canine health conditions-but all of these vaccinations are given in one combined shot, not as individual shots for each different conditions. This is known as a combined vaccine, and represents the most cost effective and practical choice for offering vaccinations to the UK’s large dog population.

However, despite the fact that all of the vaccines and their boosters are given together in one shot, the different vaccine components for each condition work in different ways, and offer different durations of protection. Some canine vaccines will protect the dog for many years or even their entire life from just one shot-while others require regular booster shots to retain immunity.

The fact that the UK’s vaccines are all delivered in one go in their boosters means that each time, dogs receive boosters for all of the common canine conditions-even those that they still remain immunity to.

This is a good example of over vaccination in practice.

Is over vaccination a problem?

Vaccines should not just be given randomly for no reason, but it is nonetheless fair to say that over vaccination is much less of a problem for the average dog than under vaccination. For dogs that are generally healthy and that do not have any problems receiving their vaccines and boosters, missing a dose of a vaccine that they need is likely to be harmful, while simply giving another vaccine against a condition that the dog is already protected against is unlikely to lead to any issues, other than in dogs that have problems with being vaccinated.

Because the standard canine vaccines in the UK are all combined into one and given each year as a booster, dogs in the UK that follow this annual booster pattern are likely to be over-vaccinated against certain conditions, as the alternative to this is to request individual shots for each condition from your vet, which can cost more and require prior planning.

Some dog owners who are committed to minimal vaccination without compromising coverage look to an alternative to this by seeking to find out precisely what coverage their dogs need each time the question of boosters to come up to remain protected without over vaccinating, and this is where Titer testing comes in.

What is Titer testing?

Titer testing involves taking a small sample of blood and testing it to identify the antibodies present within the sample-antibodies against the core transmissible canine diseases and health conditions. If the dog’s blood test shows a sufficient level of antibodies against a certain condition, this indicates that the dog has adequate protection against that specific condition, while a Titer test that returns few or no antibodies against a certain condition indicate no protection.

This means that the results of a Titer test can tell both the vet and the owner of the dog exactly what protection they currently have and what they need, enabling them to bespoke tailor their vaccines accordingly.

It is also important to note that vaccinations are not the only method of developing immunity-contact with a dog that has a certain condition, a previous bout of a condition or even in some cases, simple exposure to a condition can all lead to the body’s immune system producing its own antibodies too, which provide the same protection as vaccines.

Is Titer testing a viable alternative to vaccines?

You can request Titer testing of your dog from your vet if you are very concerned about over vaccination, or have a specific reason to need to avoid vaccines for your dog, such as a previous bad reaction.

However, the cost of the test itself is usually considerably higher than the cost of standard vaccination boosters, and of course, will need to be performed several times at various points in the dog’s life to monitor their changing antibody levels.

Additionally, the cost of having each vaccine that your dog might need administered individually will also add up to more than the cost of one simple combined vaccine shot-and so while Titer testing can be used to help to reduce over vaccination or unnecessary vaccines, it is not generally a viable option for most dog owners.

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