Vaccinations are key to developing your pet’s adaptive immune system, building a strong defense against common infectious diseases. But more vaccinations are not necessarily better. Because vaccine-induced immunity lasts longer—potentially five to seven years or longer—than experts originally believed, pets are being over-vaccinated—a practice linked to chronic illness and numerous adverse reactions.

Our Meridian Veterinary Care team custom-designs your pet’s vaccine schedule to match their individual needs, which ensures they have appropriate protection with no unnecessary side effect risks. Our team performs vaccine titer testing to measure your pet’s individual immune response to determine the vaccines they actually need at every life stage.

Core vaccines—Your pet’s first defense

Newborn puppies and kittens have temporary maternal immunity (i.e., passive immunity) that protects them from harmful diseases. When this maternal immunity fades, puppies and kittens are vulnerable to deadly pathogens—occurring between 6 and 16 weeks of age—the same time many young pets receive their first vaccines (i.e., core vaccines) in a series that repeats every 3 to 4 weeks, as veterinarians cannot determine exactly when maternal immunity fades, and keeping in mind that vaccines administered while maternal immunity remains are useless.

These core vaccines expose your young pet’s immune system to an inert (i.e., harmless) contagious virus sample, stimulating their juvenile immune system, which studies the virus sample, develops a memory, and builds a response (i.e., antibodies). Should your pet encounter the virus later in life, their immune system will be ready to attack the virus.

Core vaccines are essential to construct your pet’s health foundation. These early vaccines protect your pet from contracting:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Canine adenovirus (i.e., hepatitis)
  • Canine distemper
  • Feline panleukopenia
  • Feline rhinotracheitis
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Rabies virus

Our Meridian Veterinary Care team recommends core vaccination for puppies and kittens, and for adult dogs and cats with no known vaccine history (e.g., stray animals). After core vaccine series completion, our team prefers titer testing your pet every 1 to 3 years to determine their virus protection level. Our website describes our complete health protocols for young pets.

Titer testing—Measuring your pet’s immune response

While vaccination stimulates your pet’s immune system, titer testing—a blood test—measures their individual immune response against core vaccine viruses. Rather than revaccinating your pet at regular intervals every 1 to 3 years, we measure their circulating antibodies. When your pet’s antibody level is sufficient, they have adequate protection and do not need revaccination. But if the measured immunity falls below the predetermined threshold (i.e., a range that has been deemed effective against each virus), your pet is vulnerable to viral disease, and vaccination may be advised. Titer testing informs our customized care, and ensures your pet receives the vaccinations they need—no more, no less.

Some, not all—Available titer tests for pets

Vaccine titer testing is available for core vaccine viruses only. Rabies titer testing is available, but this titer is no replacement for vaccination because the rabies virus poses a significant human health threat. In areas where the rabies vaccination is required, local laws typically do not accept rabies titer results.

No vaccine titers are available for elective vaccines such as Lyme disease, canine influenza, Bordetella, and leptospirosis. Our Meridian Veterinary Care team recommends noncore vaccines on a case-by-case basis, depending on your pet’s health and lifestyle (e.g., visits boarding or grooming facilities).

Cost versus benefit—Routine pet vaccination versus titer testing

Your pet’s revaccination may appear to be the more economical option, but you must look at the big picture when determining the best decision for your pet—and for your wallet. Annual vaccinations may be unnecessary and are linked to short- and long-term health side effects (i.e., adverse reactions) in pets, which range in severity from mild to severe, including:

  • Allergic reaction (i.e., anaphylaxis)
  • Skin issues
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Cancer

After you weigh unnecessary vaccines’ long-term effects (e.g., chronic disease) on your pet’s health against the monetary cost, you can determine that vaccine titer testing is the most effective and economical way to safeguard your furry friend’s health.

Informed decisions—Your pet’s titer results

When our Meridian Veterinary Care team performs your adult pet’s wellness exam, we may recommend core virus titer testing based on their vaccine history, lifestyle, and exposure risks. Your pet’s titer testing results will dictate whether additional care is necessary. Core virus titer testing results include:

  • Above threshold — This result suggests your pet has an appropriate number of circulating antibodies and adequate protection against the tested virus.
  • At threshold — This result shows your pet is positive for antibodies, but the volume is borderline, and suggests they will experience an impending immunity dip. Depending on your pet’s risk factors and health, your veterinarian may recommend a booster vaccination or titer retesting. 
  • Negative — Negative test results indicate that your pet has insufficient circulating antibodies and no defense against the tested virus. Your pet’s veterinarian may recommend vaccination or—if your pet is immunocompromised or too ill for vaccines—other protective measures to protect their health. Puppies’ and kittens’ negative titer test results may indicate that they were vaccinated while protected by maternal immunity.

Our Meridian Veterinary Care team is committed to your pet’s individualized care—meaning that doing less may be what’s best. If you would like us to perform your pet’s vaccine titer testing, contact our team for more information, and schedule your pet’s next wellness appointment.