The Vaccine Titer Controversy: Deciding What’s Best for Your Dog

When your pet receives a vaccination (these contain antigens, substances which trigger an immune response) or is exposed to a disease, his or her body produces antibodies to fight the illness. Antibodies also protect your pet against contracting diseases in the future. Intended to verify immunity to particular diseases, a vaccine titer is a laboratory test which uses a blood sample to measure the presence and amount of these protective antibodies in a pet’s blood.

In veterinary medicine, titers are sometimes used to determine whether or not a patient is adequately protected against certain diseases including:

  • Canine distemper virus
  • Canine parvo virus
  • Feline panleukopenia virus
  • Rabies virus

A positive test indicates the dog is protected. A negative test indicates the dog has too few antibodies to prevent disease. The idea is that if immunity can be verified, then pets avoid receiving unnecessary vaccinations. This sounds good, but pet parents should understand the positive and negative aspects of vaccine titers before making any decisions about opting pets out of vaccinations.

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Vaccine Titer Pros

Veterinarians sometimes use vaccine titers to determine if a dog or cat has sufficient levels of antibodies to protect against disease. Some dogs do not respond properly to vaccination (non-responders), and puppies often have maternal antibodies in their systems which interfere with vaccine efficacy. Two weeks following an initial vaccination, titers can tell us if puppies have adequate antibodies or if they need another round of vaccines.
In addition, titers can also help us determine whether or not a pet with an unknown vaccine history still needs to be vaccinated. They can also be used to verify a pet’s safety, in the event the dog has a history of negative reaction to vaccination. Regardless of titer results, pet parents must adhere to local laws and guidelines regarding rabies vaccinations.

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Vaccine Advice from a Pet Health Veterinarian

Although vaccine titers have some advantages, due to their cost and inability to consistently provide sound results, we typically do not recommend them. The vaccines we use today are extremely safe, and often times last 3-5 years depending on the vaccine. We encourage you to talk with your Pet Health veterinarian about the best course of action for your unique pet’s individual wellness plan.

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Vaccine Titer Cons

Although they can be a useful tool, there are lots of reasons to disregard vaccine titers. For starters, they typically cost more than routine vaccines. If a titer has a negative result, you will end up paying for both titers and vaccinations.

The results of these tests are also highly unreliable for a number of reasons:

  • A negative result does not necessarily mean a pet is unprotected; titers only test for certain antibodies, which are only one piece of the equation for protecting pets against disease. Titers do not test for cell-mediated immunity or memory B-lymphocytes, which often exist even with low antibody levels.
  • In addition to indicating vaccination history, positive test results might also indicate exposure to a disease or current infection.
  • Titers only test antibodies for a few common diseases against which core vaccines protect.
  • Pets lose immunity to specific diseases at uniquely variable rates. Based on a single titer test, there is no way to predict how often a pet will need to be vaccinated.

Although medical exemption laws are present in some states, most local laws will not accept a positive rabies titer result in lieu of vaccination. Pets are required to have rabies tags, as the disease is highly zoonotic and dangerous for people.


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Pet Health Hospital is a life saver. My poor cat was attacked by another cat and developed a terrible abscess on her little head. Dr. Pizzillo was the attending veterinarian who treated my BabyGir!!. She was able to get the situation under control before it became more serious. Dr. Pizzillo is compassionate and caring. She has a very calming way about her and put my worries at ease. The entire staff is very professional and welcoming. I am going to recommend Pet Health Hospital to anyone needing an excellent veterinarian. Thank you to all of you!!!!

– Jennifer C.

Pet Health has been a wonderful health care service for our baby – Gracie.  She has a very serious health issue arise – and Dr. Lewis texted on a regular basis to check on her, to see how things were progressing and to see if we needed any help.   I am very grateful for their genuine love and concern for our dog.  thank you!

– Mee F.

Love this vet! Clean and high tech! The entire staff was friendly and so loving to my dog! First time here and I have already recommended this place to all my friends! The vet even followed up with us as she said she would on the urine test.

– Adrian W.

Great place. We’ve been to many vets throughout our dogs 7 years life span. This is the best place we’ve been to so far. Dr. Renee Lewis has a great presence and our dog was surprisingly extremely calm around her (he like every other dog, don’t like vets..).

This clinic is not very pushy wanting to do ‘extra’ work to create a larger bill. 

Dr. Lewis also showed that she really cared and took her time to get to know our dog, and explaining everything after the surgery. 

I’m done with Veterinaries that only cares about profit and rush through the consultation because they’re overbooked!

The staff here are also very friendly and helpful. They made us feel welcome!

I highly recommend this place!


– Sarah W.

Pet Health Animal Hospital is simply amazing. We found Dr. B and his team shortly after adopting our first dog. Being new to the area, we were concerned with finding the right vet that cared about our dog as much as we did. Lucky enough, we walked right into the perfect vet. From overnight stays to surgeries, Dr B and his team make us feel so comfortable, put any concern at ease, and are masters of communication. There is never a question left unanswered, or an update left undelivered. The whole team knows our dogs when we walk in, and our dogs are always excited and sprinting to get into the vet to see them. I tell people all the time that my favorite part of living in Las Vegas is Pet Health Animal Hospital!

– Andrew G.

The doctors and assistants do an amazing job here. I wasn’t sure what to do with my Sasha so I brought her in fearing the worst. Dr. Jessica Pizzillo was simply the best. She was able to remove the growth the same day and at a fraction of the cost of other estimates I had received, all while putting my Sasha through the least amount of trauma possible.

The front desk staff was also very kind and understanding when it comes to stressful situations like this. Stephanie and the rest of the staff made me feel comfortable and were very professional.

– Scott H.

Absolutely incredible vet! The level of service and attention is the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere.