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05 January 2011


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Thanks, I've been leaning towards skipping the titers at my dog's next rabies shot in two years.


Really, Christie? That surprises me. Generally the test for exposure to a disease in human medicine is the test for antibodies.

I agree with you certainly, after a vaccination a failure in immune response is certainly a reason for further investigation - but I would reasonably expect my dogs to test high for parvo antibodies.

I'll research the matter further and see if I can't find a paper or two - although I'm sure you're correct, past experience tells me you wouldn't make such a declaration if you didn't know it to be true.


So, what's this magic test going to cost? Cheaper than sending it out, or more expensive?

Christie Keith

Kim, I'd say no, because it doesn't say anything about the immune system if antibody titers wane. And interestingly, there isn't really a strong correlation between re-exposure and sky-rocketing antibody levels. Sometimes they barely budge, sometimes they go up a lot, sometimes nothing happens at all.

If a dog is persistently not responding to initial vaccination, then yes, I'd think you'd want to look at the immune system function (although usually in such cases no one finds anything to explain it), but waning titer levels, or a failure for levels to go up after exposure, don't tell you anything.


I'd like to hear comments from virologists regarding what else these tests can potentially tell us.

As you noted, hepatitis is rare (not only rare, but practically nonexistent), so titers for this disease are likely to come back low, as the body is not being regularly exposed to this disease.

If you live in the country, distemper titers are likely to be high, whereas in the city parvo titers are likely to be high - even in dogs who haven't been vaccinated. Why?


Whoops! Got a little excited and hit submit a little early. ;O)

The reason, now that I've injected a pause for dramatic effect (lol) is that these viruses are common in these areas. My local area is FULL of parvo, and yet despite a good percentage of dogs running around unvaccinated, only a tiny percentage of those dogs fall ill.

My dogs, who each receive a single Distemper/Parvo shot after 16 weeks of age - although my youngest received a booster and my oldest didn't receive her first vaccine until she was almost two years old - and two rabies vaccines, each a year apart (there has never been a case of canine or feline rabies after two confirmed vaccinations. Ever.) SHOULD test a high positive titer for parvo simply due to our environment. My dogs frequent the local dog park, and the local parks. They walk down main street, and past the local professional football stadium downtown. They live IN the "hot" zone.

Now, consider if one of my dogs came back with a low titer count for Parvo. This would immediately have me running every single immune test available along with a full blood panel and chemistry looking for an immune disorder. Biopsies would follow, and specialists - because my dogs titers for Parvo, even without vaccinations, should be through the ROOF simply thanks to daily environmental challenge.

What I'm saying is, if these tests are available for a reasonable cost IN my vets office, wouldn't these serve as a potential way to play detective when immune deficiency is suspected in a laundry list of possibilities?

Maybe I'm way out of line, but your list of reasons just got me thinking of all the other potential uses for a quick and easy titer test.


This is where titers are useful to me - people who will accept them as "proof" of vaccination status.

I have one dog whose rabies titer was crazyhigh - like, they gave up measuring it because it was so high. Over the years (it's been nine years since his last rabies shot) and with homeopathic treatment, we've been able to get that titer number down into less insane ranges (still in the hundreds, though), but it's clear that his immune response to vaccination was not normal. It's also clear that he never needs to be vaccinated ever again.

And because of his numbers, my vet is completely on board with the plan. So the titer is useful to me there. But that's about it.

Christie Keith

YesBiscuit, one thing though: Doesn't it worry you to rely on a veterinarian who doesn't understand science or the immune system? I mean, if he's so off base on this, what else doesn't he get right?


I have to titer one of my dogs as he had a vaccine reaction. My question is what if the titer comes back that he needs a distemper booster? I can't give him one as it would kill him. So, why am I doing titers if I can't do anything about it?

Christie Keith

Jill, titers CANNOT TELL YOU HE NEEDS A BOOSTER. If my post here didn't explain that sufficiently, read this article, which goes into more detail:


But I'll spell it out even more clearly:

Once your dog has formed immunity to distemper, EVER, he never needs another titer test OR another vaccination so no, there's no reason to do either, or worry about it.

My only question for your dog would be, did he form immunity earlier? Has he had a protective titer in the past? If so, you're done. Stop worrying about it.

The basis for my saying that is in the citations and links at that article. Read it, and if you have any questions, you can come back and ask. :)

Or, tell your veterinarian to call Dr. Ronald Schultz at the Univ. of Wisc. - Madison College of Veterinary Medicine and ask him about it.


Available in Europe in 2009 by a different name

May 2009 http://www.cvcgroup.co.uk/downloads/5th%20EditionMay2009.pdf

Immunucomb Vaccicheck Antibody test kit

65 Euro for 12 kits – wholesale (at today’s rate that’s $85 US)

CVC Group are licensed distributors per the Biogal site

Sounds so simple!


Yet here are warnings about false positives and false negatives:

Instructions: http://www.drugs.com/vet/immunocomb-canine-vaccicheck.html

"- The Comb Has 12 Teeth - Sufficient For 12 Tests.

each Tooth Will Be Developed In A Corresponding Column Of Wells In The Developing Plate. Individual Or Multiple Tests Are Processed By Breaking Off The Desired Number Of Teeth From The Comb."

Developing Plate - One Plate, Divided Into Compartments A-f, That Are Subdivided Into 12 Wells. The Plate Compartments Are Pre-filled With The Reagent Solutions.

Also saw notes in Twitter/Facebook feeds (I don’t do either), that this test should be refrigerated and warmed up before using. Maybe best to let vet know ahead of time of appt. that you want one. So, if the whole plate and comb were taken out to warm up for each client, would the last test in the kit not be as accurate from being warmed up 11 times previously? I imagine this is true of most ELISA tests, but don't know.

Anyone going?

Biogal will be exhibiting its products at the NAVC Conference in Orlando, Florida 15th-19th January 2011 and the

WVC Conference in Las Vegas 20th -24th February.

H. Houlahan

My question was the same as CathyA's -- what's this bugger gonna cost?

Also, am I the only one who noticed the wicked hygroma on that Dane?

Christie Keith

I would expect that veterinarians will set the prices in their offices, and that it will range from minimal to a lot. Sort of like blood draws. I've seen so much variation in what a vet will charge to draw blood in trying to arrange to have genetic testing done for a large number of dogs a few years ago, I just can't begin to guess!


My vet requires current vaccines in order to admit a pet for hospitalization. Although I understand what limitations a titer test has, I use it because my vet is willing to accept the results of a titer test in lieu of current vaccinations when one of my pets needs surgery. If there ever is a test for memory cells, I'll sign up for it!

Christie Keith

Yes, the titer IS a "snapshot in time," but if the dog has protective levels of antibodies EVER, it means he has formed memory cells, and you never need to know again if he has a titer.

While saying things like this technically true, I find the way many people understand it is inaccurate.

Gina Spadafori

Biogal will be exhibiting its products at the NAVC Conference in Orlando, Florida 15th-19th January 2011 and the

WVC Conference in Las Vegas 20th -24th February.

Comment by CathyA — January 6, 2011

Team Becker will be there -- Dr. B, Christie and me ... and Ericka for one day as well.


I have been through a few vets here trying to find one I liked. I like this one. We don't agree on everything but that's to be expected. It's possible her policy (which she doesn't strictly enforce) is based upon liability. I'm not sure what alternative (besides titers) vets have for clients who decline re-vax but still want hospitalization services. It would be foolhardy to have a "no vax history required" policy and I wouldn't want to leave a pet anywhere that had one. Titers are sort of a compromise - albeit imperfect - between that and the annual re-vax. She can say with confidence that all pets hospitalized at her clinic have been vaccinated at some point, which is what I think she sees as her obligation to reassure clients.

Susan Fox

I've asked our vet about using titers instead of vaccinating since we used to board our dog at a place that accepted them as an alternative and I know people who use them. Her response was that a titer is a snapshot for that moment in time only.


Vets have been desperate to regain the yearly revenue that's been lost from many pet owners becoming wise to the how vaccines work and how long they really last. Low titers do not mean an animal does not have immunity and needs a 'booster', but I'm sure this will be pushed to make anxious 'pet parents' feel better and/or be convinced to pay for shots they don't need.

Renee V

I'm thinking that I would want someone who is independant performing the titers. I wouldn't put it past some vets to charge an arm and a leg for the titer then somehow faking the results and scaring the owner into vacinating anyway.

Lotta D

The titer tests do not show vaccination has happened. They show exposure to the disease including the attenuated disease in the vaccine.

So the use in shelters or rescues is of low value as all it tells them is the dog has been exposed not whether or not there will be a symptoms outbreak in another few days or not.

All you know is either the dog had a shot or is coming down with the disease - not terribly useful info on a dog of unknown background. You'd know that in 10-14 days or so anyhow and that is longer than most places keep the dogs.

Christie Keith

Lotta, that's not true -- the lab can tell a lot from the titer levels. It's usually possible to distinguish between a dog who has either been vaccinated or recovered from the virus in question, or is potentially about to break with the disease. It's not 100 percent, of course, but it's far more predictive and informative than you're saying here.

Mike and Oz-dog

October 4, 2010 my dog was vaccinated with Spectra 7. Within 2 weeks he became deathly ill! We rushed him to the University Vet Teaching Hospital (MSU) and Oz was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). While the vaccine manufacture assured me that "only 1 in 100,000 dogs get this" the problem is this "1" dog is my best friend. he's been with me 24/7 from when he was 6 weeks old. (He's 8 yrs now.) To make a very long and tragic story short: at least 4 blood transfusions later, multiple trips to the Vet Teaching Hospital, a partially failed knee (stifle) surgery, much much much discomfort, pain and anxiety (for Oz and myself), plus $12,000 later (and that's with a 20% vet alumni discount) I have a dog that, while alive and happy to be with me, can no longer go on the miles and miles of walks through the woods we used to take and he loved so much. Today he's lucky to walk and 1/8 mile. He walks with a limp and moans from discomfort as he goes to lay down. It's heartbreaking and has me in tears daily!

I've spoken with the vaccine manufacture and they assure me the vaccine is "safe." BS! I have no doubt whatsoever the IMHA was caused by the vaccine.

Shame on the vaccine manufacture for not posting any warning on the vaccine packaging, and shame on MSU Vet Teaching Hospital for profiting from my pets illness and misery!

At this point I will NEVER vaccinate my dogs (beyond puppyhood) again. (Sadly, after Oz passes I doubt I'll ever have another dog.) I'm so happy to see this titer test come to market. Maybe had it been there last year my trusted, faithful, loving friend would not been harmed in the name of "helping" him. Maybe it will prevent that other "1 in 100,000" dogs (of which the USA has millions) from this horrid disease IMHA. I am not anti-vaccine... only very judicious and responsible use of them. Yearly "booster" vaccines are, in retrospect, the wrong course... even if it was my dog and friend... the 1 in 100,000. When that 1 dogs happens to be your beloved pet that statistic makes all the difference in the world!

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