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Posted on 10-14-2015

The trend in human medicine is towards titers vs. empiric vaccination. This is now emerging as a hot topic in veterinary medicine. We answer titer questions weekly at our practice in Roswell Georgia. The use of vaccines in animal medicine has been occurring for over 40 years. Widespread adoption of vaccines in our domestic animals has led to a dramatic improvement in the overall health and increase in longevity. However, with an ever-growing thirst for knowledge in our society, the concerns for vaccines and their potential adverse effects have created a “proceed with caution” public opinion in the vaccine sector of veterinary medicine. I want to be clear in the beginning of this post that the incidence of vaccine reactions is less than 1% of all dogs and cats that are vaccinated.

Now, let us dive in to the “nuts & bolts” of titers for core vaccines. An important facet of titer knowledge is that the reliability of titers only pertains to core vaccine infectious diseases in dogs (parvovirus, distemper) and cats (panleukopenia). The “gold standard” assay for virus titers are the VIN (viral neutralizing titer) and HI (hemagglutination) tests. Most commercial veterinary laboratories use ELISA (enzyme immunoassays) and IFA (immunofluorescence) assays, which is the current testing that Chattahoochee Animal Clinic employs. These methodologies were studied and compared to the “gold standard” testing and found to comparable in results.

How are these tests interpreted? This depends on the type of testing applied. Some will actually give a titer level, while some will be reported as “protective” or “not protective”. What does this actually mean? Basically, these tests indicate if the body has a high enough antibody level to provide protection against that specific virus.

So, how do we apply these results for use in our Roswell practice? First, virologists and research veterinarians have repeatedly stated that vaccine titers should not be considered a substitute for core vaccines in the healthy pet. Examples of when we recommend titers are if the pet has an underlying immune system disease or history of severe allergic reactions to the vaccines. These titers should be repeated yearly, as the pet’s immune system will change over time and their exposure to these infectious diseases is constant. As your pet’s healthcare advocate, we always discuss the best and safest options for your pet. So, if you have questions beyond the scope of this article please give us a call - 770-993-6329.

Until next time - Dr Marcus Smith

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