Titer Testing: Step by Step to Protect Your Dogs Health

Do you have an itchy dog?  

A dog that suddenly has issues with certain foods or proteins?  

Maybe a dog with chronic yeasty ears or feet?  

Doesn’t that seem peculiar that suddenly your dog became allergic to the environment or their food?  Or why sudden overgrowth of yeast?

These symptoms of dis-ease could all be symptoms of a vaccine reaction or vaccinosis  These vaccine reactions mostly go unreported and misunderstood by pet parents.  More seriously they are often undocumented by a veterinarian.  

As a caring and responsible pet parent, you have been led to believe that repeated vaccines support health.  The opposite can be true leading to a deteriation of health. 

Although you might the symptoms I just mentioned seem minor at first, if further over vaccination continues for the life of your pet, the symptoms can get much worse.  Possibly resulting in the death of your pet.  I have had first-hand experience witnessing vaccine reactions to leptovirus (a non-core vaccine), to rabies booster, and watched my Norman suffer for years with chronic itching despite my best efforts. But I never got him off the repeated vaccination train…..my biggest mistake.  I don’t’ want you to have to learn the hard way.  So I’ve vowed to do everything in my power to stop the suffering by educating you, step by step, how to titer test your dog. 

It is time to embrace vaccination in a whole new way, ONE AND DONE!   Let me explain

Why you should think differently about repeat vaccinations? 

There is a real health crisis going on right now for our pets.  The veterinarians who we entrust with our dog’s utmost health and wellbeing, that we pay to provide the best health solutions, are doing a disservice and actually causing our pets harm in the name of their own outdated vaccine practices and profits.  

If you are getting a postcard in the mail EVERY YEAR from your vet instructing you to come in for booster shots then they are not even following the current AHAA vaccine guidelines.  According to the American Animal Hospital Association,  the recommended protocol is to revaccinate every three years.  The AHAA also goes on to support titer testing in place of booster shots.  This just makes sense and I will list step by step how to do this. 

Your dogs immune system is VERY intelligent.  So once immunity is established (which occurred after all those puppy vaccines) it is primed with immunity memory cells ready to jump into action if an “invader” like a virus is detected.  There may not currently be a test to measure these memory cells, but a titer test is an acceptable method to measure circulating the antibodies.  

Keep reading and consider a change in your dog’s health care routine based on common sense and data.  Decide that this year you’ll start titer testing first then making an educated decision whether a vaccination booster is necessary.  This decision could add years to your pets life.

What are Parvo, Distemper, and Rabies? 

Let’s cover some of the basics of each of the core canine virus that we vaccinate against.

Parvovirus

  • Mode of Transmission: spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, contact with even trace amounts of contaminated feces on surfaces, and even people.  The virus is resistant to heat, cold, humidity and drying.   And can survive in these environments for a long period of time. 
  • Risk:  highest susceptibility to Parvo are young puppies who’s maternal immunity has expired and also dogs with a compromised immune system.
  • Symptoms: attacks the dog’s gastrointestinal system.  
  • Treatment: If diagnosed, there is no treatment for Parvo.   The health care professional will work to support the infected animals overall health and manage the systems while the body works to fight off the virus.  The disease can be fatal and can occur as early as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms begin. 

Distemper

  • Mode of Transmission: by air bourne exposure from other infected dogs (sneezing and coughing) and also from shared surfaces.  Infected dogs can shed the virus for months and infected mothers can also pass the disease on to their pups through the placenta.
  • Risk:  highest susceptibility to Distemper are young puppies who’s maternal immunity has expired and also dogs with compromised immune systems.
  • Symptoms: attacks the dogs respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system.  The initial infection can present itself as watery or a puss discharge from the eyes.  If the disease progresses a fever will develop, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting.  When the disease attacks the nervous system the infected animal will develop a circling behavior, head tilting, muscle twitching, convulsions, seizures, and/ or paralysis.
  • Treatment: Unfortunately, similar to the Parvovirus,  there is no treatment.  The health care professional will work to support the infected animals overall health and manage the systems while the body works to fight off the virus.  The disease is often fatal and animals that do survive can have permanent, irreversible nervous symptom damage.

Rabies

  • Mode of Transmission: is only spread by the contact with the saliva of an infected animal.  Typically transmitted from a bite of an infected animal but there have been infections caused by a scratch or an existing wound. 
  • Risk:  any dog that could have exposure to other affected animals.
  • Symptoms: Early symptoms include behavior changes like increased aggression, anxiety, and even appearing more friendly than normal. As the disease progresses the animal will become hypersensitive to light and sound.  Seizures and more aggression can also occur. The final stage of rabies is typified by paralysis of the nerves that control the head and throat — the animal will hypersalivate and lose the ability to swallow. As the paralysis progresses, the animal eventually goes into respiratory failure and dies.
  • Treatment: There is no cure for rabies, and it is almost always fatal. Once clinical signs occur, an infected animal usually dies within five days.

The Legal Side of things

In the United States,  rabies is the only infectious disease in which vaccines are required by law in order to protect your dog.  But it is also recommended and common practice to vaccinate our dogs against two additional “core” viruses, Parvovirus and Distemper.  Although the State legalities only require proof of rabies immunity, most services involving dogs (rescues, shelters, boarding facilities, groomers, daycares, and some trainers) will also request that you can provide proof that your dog has active immunity to both Parvo and Distemper. Always check your state and local municipal guidelines.

That being said,  there is always more than one way to be compliant. Titer testing is a safer alternative to blindly revaccinating by first proving that immunity still exists.

I want to be careful with my message here.  I’m not anti-vaccine for the core disease Distemper, Parvo, and Rabies.  You need to be aware there is good research being done showing that often once your dog is vaccinated they maintain their immunity for the duration of their life.  Do you know how you prove that…..titer testing will give you the data and piece of mind that this is indisputable. 

The Better Way, Titer Testing

Why I will only titer test at the University of Wisconsin

Reason #1

Ok, now that we’ve covered the viruses and we know that the AHAA approves of titer testing – let’s chat about a better way to protect our pets.  No matter where you live you can all utilize the expert immunity lab services of the University of Wisconsin.  

I prefer to use this lab for a number of reasons.  I’m not just being biased because I live here in the Dairy State.  

First, before I started taking control of WHERE our titer testing was performed, Chase received some results that showed that he had no immunity to distemper.  That made no sense because his previous years’ titer was fine.  I had the testing repeated but this time I sent the sample myself per the steps below to the U of W lab…..shocking, results came back that he still had adequate immunity to distemper and parvo.  This taught me that not all labs, not all testing are created equal.  

Reason #2

I will only use the University of Wisconsin lab because it is supervised by a very well known researcher for canine immunity, Dr. Ronald Shultz.  He is at the forefront of using current data and research to continue to update the AAHA vaccine guidelines.  Only the best for my boys.  

Titer testing step by step

  1. Print and prepare your forms and mailing label.  
  2. Purchase a small flat rate shipping box (I prefer 8 11/16″ x 5 7/16″ x 1 3/4″)  and some bubble wrap.
  3. Make an appointment with your vet for a blood draw:  red top or serum separator tube, at least 2 milliliters.   It is ok to refrigerate the sample if you can not get it in the mail same day.
  4. Wrap the blood sample in the bubble wrap.
  5. Write a check for all the testing you are requesting.
  6. Put the bubble wrapped sample, paperwork, and check inside the shipping box.  Seal the box
  7. Attached the label to the box and head to your post office.
  8. Wait for the email with the results.  Typically only takes a few weeks depending on the labs’ queue.
  9. If the titer results come back “adequate protection”, give those results to your vet for their records and also print to have them handy for anyone else that requests them.
  10. If the titer results come back “inadequate protection” don’t instantly just to getting a booster shot.  Consider your dog’s overall health, lifestyle, and risk factors.  I would retest in 3-6 months while you research if a booster shot is in the best interest of your dog. 

All of this only costs about $100.  Isn’t the piece of mind of not harming your pet worth it?  Here is the breakdown of costs: 

  • $25-$50 for the vet visit or blood draw depending if they charge you for an exam.  
  • less than $10 for shipping 
  • $40 for Parvo and Distemper testing at the University of Wisconsin

Additional Resources

Below are some links to some resources if you want more information about the great work many veterinarians are doing to help protect our pets from over vaccination. 

Protect the Pets

University of Wisconsin Titer Testing Lab

The Rabies Challenge

Kansas State University Rabies Titer Testing Lab

In conclusion, I hope this post encourages you to think beyond the postcard that comes in the mail from your vet reminding you to come in for a booster.  Change the conversation.  Titer test first before considering a booster. 

Unfortunately, this might not be a give-and-take conversation you can have with your current vet.  So be prepared and remember your vet has a choice and so do you.  They can either assist you with a blood draw so you can have the titers tested or they lose a client.  This is a way we can send a message to the Veterinarian community that their practices need to catch up with the science and we are not going to harm our pets any longer no matter how many postcard reminders they send in the mail.

It is time to so NO to unnecessary vaccine boosters and say yes titer testing first.  Join Nina and I, in the group of dog guardians choosing a common sense approach to immunity. 


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