Vaccines vs. Titers

kitten about to receive vaccinesWhich is better: annual vaccines or titers? It’s a question we often hear from our clients.

As a responsible dog or cat owner, you know how crucial vaccines are to your pet’s health and well-being. You no doubt took your puppy or kitten to the veterinarian for their first round of vaccines and are probably conscientious about their yearly shots. But, like many pet owners, you may also be concerned about the possible negative side effects all those routine vaccinations could cause.


Annual vaccinations are recommended for every pet. However, we recognize not every pet we care for may not be in the best physical health. And while not common, we also understand vaccines can cause adverse side effects, which can include fever, loss of appetite, swelling around the injection site, vomiting, and diarrhea. These types of reactions typically improve quickly and have no lasting effect on pets. In rare cases, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has documented more acute reactions, which include severe allergic reactions, autoimmune problems and, in rare cases, and the appearance of sarcomas (tumors) near the injection site.

When our doctors assess your pet, we take all these factors into consideration, along with the previous medical history. If your pet is deemed healthy, we encourage vaccinations. They are the best defense against all of those nasty diseases!

What is a Titer?

In some cases, titer testing is a safe and effective alternative to annual vaccinations.

When your pet is given a vaccination, their immune system responds by producing antibodies which are used to fight off future infections. A titer test is a simple blood test that measures the level of immune system antibodies in your pet’s bloodstream for one or more years after vaccination.

If the titer test comes back positive, it means that the animal’s blood contains a sufficiently high ratio of the specific antibody to protect her from infection and there is no need to revaccinate at that time. A negative titer test means your pet lacks an adequate amount of antibodies necessary to prevent infection and a vaccination is therefore necessary.

When is Titer Testing Appropriate?

Unfortunately, titers are not an option when it comes to some serious conditions including canine leptospirosis, bordetella (kennel cough), and Lyme disease, feline herpesvirus-1, feline calicivirus, and feline leukemia. Vaccines for these and some other conditions lose their effectiveness more quickly and the results of infections are more life-threatening and resistant to treatment.

Rabies vaccines offer long-term protection from infection, and the titer test for the rabies virus antibody is generally considered to be very accurate. However, most states including Texas, require annual rabies vaccinations and do not recognize rabies titer testing as a replacement for the rabies vaccine.

Generally speaking, titer testing is an appropriate option for pets with serious health conditions or pets that have previously experienced vaccine reaction.

As you can see, titer testing is not a replacement for vaccinations, but in certain cases, it can be a safe and effective alternative.

Here at Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital, we’re committed to providing you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your pet’s healthcare. Give us a call at 972-690-6900 or complete the form below to learn more about our vaccinations, titers and our other veterinary services.

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Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital serves the northeast Dallas suburban area including Garland, Richardson, Plano, Murphy, Wylie and Mesquite.

This information is not a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding an animal’s medical condition, always seek the advice of your veterinarian.



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