Is a titre test better for our chihuahua?

Can a titre test be better for our chihuahuas than the booster vaccinations? Owners are still unsure about vaccinations and many have never heard of titre testing. So, here are the questions that most dog owners ask.

What is a titre test?

A titre test is a blood test that checks for antibodies to a certain disease. These antibodies are produced by the bodies immune system in response to a vaccine or the disease it’self.

In most cases you would titre test for parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. The results of this test would be able to tell you if your dog has enough antibodies in his system to fight the disease should he become exposed to it

What are the core vaccines your puppy should have?

As a puppy your dog will have been vaccinated against:

  • Adenovirus (Infectious Canine Hepatitis)
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper

These are the core vaccinations that all puppies should be given.

Leptospirosis, on the other hand, is not part of the core vaccines. It is important to check that your vet isn’t automatically adding the lepto vaccine as part of the core set. Ask before they do it. Read more about the lepto vaccine here.

Read more about bringing up a chihuahua puppy here

What happens next?

Traditionally your dog would have been re-called to the vets for an annual booster. If you missed a year for any reason, often vets would insist that you started the vaccination process from scratch. However, it has now been shown (Schultz et al. 2010) that once a dog or cat has been vaccinated the immunity lasts for years if not a lifetime.

Why are people stopping boosters?

However, boosters are now out of favour and many believe that the annual booster recall is nothing more than a money-making exercise for unscrupulous vets.

In fact, the BVA (British Veterinarian Association) themselves issue guidelines to vets to say booster vaccinations should be given every three years not annually.

Read more about the issue of over vaccinating dogs here

Surely booster vaccinations mean my dog is better protected?

No, it doesn’t. Excessive booster vaccinations are under the spotlight as a contributing factor for many canine diseases including cancer. If your dog is immune from the core vaccination set, he will not become more immune with boosters.

How does titre testing help?

A titre test will test your dog’s blood and see if he has enough antibodies in his system to fight the disease should he come into contact with it. If the test comes back positive your dog is immune, if levels are low you may decide to give your dog a booster.

What do insurance companies want?

This is complicated and open to interpretation. Leaving many owners believing that they must continue to administer boosters to remain insured. The reality is you need to check the wording.

My insurance (Brought by Many now Many Pets) states that ‘if your dog gets sick from a disease that vaccination could prevent, then you won’t be covered’. While they follow veterinary guidelines that suggest boosters are needed, it is not insisting on them as a get-out-of-paying clause for other issues. I can confirm they will payout without proof of boosters as we have just made a successful claim for Minnie’s deciduous tooth removal and Price has had a couple of claims for his various misadventures. 

So, assuming your dog has had core vaccinations it’s not going to get ill from these diseases. Non-core vaccines like kennel cough can be administered to a dog if they are needed.

What do daycare and kennels want?

This can be tricky, as many still believe that annual boosters are required by their professional insurance. Ask them to check. A positive titre for the core vaccines and any other non-core vaccines, like kennel cough, that fit your circumstances should be all that’s required. 

What happens in a titre test?

A small amount of blood is drawn from your dog, usually on the leg. It is then sent off to the laboratory for analysis. The lab will run a few blood tests of the sample using sterilized equipment to generate a report. 

When do you get the results?

Different labs offering this service have different turnaround times. But in general, a couple of weeks.

How often should you do a titre test?

This is up to you. Labs who offer the service suggest yearly (but they would). You can decide how often you need to get it done depending on your circumstances. But personally I only think every few years. Mika is ten now and I will get him tested as he has never had a booster since his puppy vaccinations. 

Where can I get a titre test done?

Only at the vets. If they don’t offer it as routine either change your vet or insist. Any vet can send off for a kit.

How much does a titre test cost?

That depends on how much your vet decides to charge. Some may make it super expensive to try and preserve the old business module of annual boosters. But on average it should be less than £$100. If your vet tries to overcharge then find another vet they don’t own you and they should be providing you with a service. 

In summary

It seems that the professional canine services like insurance companies are being slow to take up titre test as proof of immunity. This seems strange as insurances are the ones paying out for expensive cancer treatments that titre testing could help prevent. If cutting down on pointless boosters keep your dog healthier you would think they would jump at it.