Titer Testing: A Crash Course

June 7, 2012

Attention Veterinarians and techs: be sure to listen to Antibody Titer Tests: A Video Featuring Ron Schultz, PhD  It’s RACE approved for CE.

Titer testing, also called serology and antibody testing, is a simple blood test to ensure that a dog or cat has responded to vaccination with a specific “core” virus vaccine, for dogs specifically CDV (distemper), CPV-2 (parvovirus), CAV-2 (adenovirus-2), and RV (rabies). Testing can determine if protective immunity exists in a previously vaccinated animal and establish the duration of immunity (DOI). It is a powerful tool for anyone wanting to avoid unnecessary revaccination or to ensure effective vaccination of a puppy or kitten. Titer test results are currently not accepted in lieu of rabies vaccination in the US although USDA rabies titer standards for dogs may be established soon by the nonprofit Rabies Challenge Fund study. Titer testing is generally not useful for testing for Coronavirus or Lyme disease. Titer testing for cats is only done for panleukopenia and rabies and not for herpes and calici. (Note: Titer is pronounced TIGHT er.)

What the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) says about Titer Testing 

“Antibody assays for CDV and CPV-2 are the tests of greatest benefit in monitoring immunity, especially after the puppy vaccination series”. (page 9)  For cats, see page 15.

“DOI [duration of immunity] after natural infection/disease is life-long.”  page 22
“DOI after vaccination with MLV vaccines is 9 years or longer, based on challenge and serological studies.” page 22

What the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines say about Titer Testing for Dogs  (pages 17- 19)

“Despite the confusion and controversy surrounding antibody testing, these serologic tests are useful for monitoring immunity to CDV, CPV-2, CAV-1, and RV…. The tests are also medically useful to ensure that a dog responds to a specific core virus vaccine and/or to determine if immunity is present in a previously vaccinated dog.”

“The serologic test is the only acceptable way to ensure a client-owned dog develops an immune response.”

“… dogs that have been actively immunized by vaccination or naturally by infection that have antibodies to CDV, CPV-2,or CAV-1 do not need to be revaccinated. Some clients are now having titers performed for CDV and CPV-2 in lieu of revaccinating.”

In a study reported in 1997, dogs vaccinated with a product containing CDV [canine distemper] and then placed in an environment without CDV maintained antibody titers for at least 10 yr.

“It was shown in many studies that antibody to [CDV, CPV-2, and CAV-2] persisted for many years, even in the absence of the viruses or revaccination.”


Hear Dr. Karen Becker, DVM talk about titer testing

When should you test titers?

Test titers no sooner than 2 weeks after vaccination.  Puppies may be tested before vaccination to establish when maternal immunity wanes and following the last vaccination after 14-16 weeks of age to determine if immunity was established.

Do titers need to be repeated yearly, every three years or only one time once a positive titer is established?

W. Jean Dodds, DVM, who tests titers in her Hemopet lab, wrote in her article Treating Adverse Vaccine Reactions : “Some veterinarians have challenged the validity of using vaccine titer testing to assess the immunologic status of animals against the common, clinically important infectious diseases.

With all due respect, this represents a misunderstanding of what has been called the “fallacy of titer testing”, because research has shown that once an animal’s titer stabilizes it is likely to remain constant for many years.  Properly immunized animals have sterilizing immunity that not only prevents clinical disease but also prevents infection, and only the presence of antibody can prevent infection.”

Do you need to revaccinate an animal who once had “strong” titers but no longer does?

According to renowned vaccination expert Dr. Ronald Schultz, titer tests “show that an animal with a positive test has sterilizing immunity and should be protected from infection.  If that animal were vaccinated it would not respond with a significant increase in antibody titer, but may develop a hypersensitivity to vaccine components (e.g. fetal bovine serum). Furthermore, the animal doesn’t need to be revaccinated and should not be revaccinated since the vaccine could cause an adverse reaction (hypersensitivity disorder). You should avoid vaccinating animals that are already protected.  It is often said that the antibody level detected is “only a snapshot in time”. That’s simply not true; it is more a “motion picture that plays for years.”

Dr. Schultz et al in Age and Long-term Protective Immunity in Dogs and Cats wrote: “Old dogs and cats rarely die from vaccine-preventable infectious disease, especially when they have been vaccinated and immunized as young adults (i.e. between 16 weeks and 1 year of age).

“… even a single dose of modified live virus (MLV) canine core vaccines [distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus] or MLV feline core vaccines [feline parvovirus, feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus], when administered at 16 weeks or older, could provide long-term immunity [9 years or more] in a very high percentage of animals, while also increasing herd immunity. 

Re testing adult dogs or cats or pets with unknown histories, WSAVA Vaccination Group Chairman Michael Day says, in WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VACCINATION AND TITRE TESTING:  “In fact, immunologically an adult dog can be primed, immunized and boosted from a single injection of MLV CORE vaccine as there is no inhibitory MDA. However, such dogs may not actually require vaccination at all – either because they have been previously vaccinated or in some instances have acquired natural immunity from field exposure to virus. Owners may therefore be offered serology rather than automatic vaccination in this circumstance. An adult dog with serum antibody to CDV, CAV and CPV is protected already and does not require revaccination at that time point. Similarly, a ‘lapsed’ or adopted adult cat with serum FPV antibody is protected and does not require that component of vaccine at that time point.”

How do you get your dog’s titers tested?

Many major labs and universities perform titer tests. Your vet likely has a favorite lab and can draw blood and send it for testing for you. Note: some veterinarians resist performing these tests and, as a result, charge more than the going rate at other practices. Although titer testing may cost somewhat more than vaccination in the short run, it is a bargain long term. Titers do not have to be repeated yearly or even every three years. By testing rather than vaccinating, you avoid the risk of adverse reactions from unnecessary vaccines and the accompanying cost of treatment. The more expensive rabies titer need be performed only under special circumstances (such as international travel) or to determine immunity of animals with rabies vaccination exemptions.

Large commercial and university labs perform titer testing. Prices vary.

Jean Dodds, DVM, a highly respected veterinary hematologist as well as a pioneer against over-vaccination, performs titer tests at her Hemopet lab and interprets results. The cost as of 6-12 (subject to change without notice) is $45 for both distemper and parvo (tested together) and rabies for $80. Add to that the cost of a blood draw from your vet and sending by mail. Note: Most vets will send the results to any lab you specify.

Inexpensive and quick in-clinic titer tests are now available from VacciCheck for CDV, CPV-2, and CAV-2 at a growing number of practices.  Read A Report by Ronald D. Schultz, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Professor and Chair, Department of Pathobiological Sciences School of Veterinary Medicine – University of Wisconsin-Madison. They wrote us June 2012 that they have “a feline VacciCheck which tests for the core feline vaccines-panleukopenia, calici and herpes. We should be applying for USDA approval shortly, meaning that feline VacciCheck is at minimum a year away.”

The other in-house test called TiterCHEK® determines antibody levels to Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Canine Parvovirus (CPV) in canine serum or plasma samples. For a comparison, read what WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group Chariman Michael J. Day has to say about the two tests. Both provide results in about 20 minutes.

Additional articles of interest:

Don’t Let Your Vet Vaccinate Blindly: Test Titers  (help convince your vet to test titers)

Titer Test: Don’t Vaccinate Your Dog Unnecessarily

More on Vaccine Titers by W. Jean Dodds, DVM

Titres: What Do They Mean?



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30 Responses to Titer Testing: A Crash Course

  1. Irene Nashed on November 10, 2015 at 2:51 am

    I need to travel with my cats to Europe for the first time (we are all from Egypt & some of them have been vaccinated last March)Many people tell me that i should revaccinate before sampling because it has been over 6 months since the rabies vaccine, so that the titer test won’t fail (i can not afford to lose so much money in vain). Please advise

  2. Mike on March 16, 2015 at 4:26 am

    The most recommended test examines antibodies for both parvovirus and distemper, the two most important viruses.The parvovirus/distemper test can help you determine if your dog requires additional vaccination, and may save your dog unnecessary shots.

  3. Don't Let Your Vet Vaccinate Blindly: Test Titers | Truth4Dogs on January 26, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    […] 21st Century, you’ll need information from unimpeachable sources. I wrote an article called Titer Testing: A Crash Course for a lay audience. (If you’d like to know more about when, how and how often to test, […]

  4. Did You Know That You Could Save Your Pet From Over-Vaccination? | EaseMyMind Pet Sitting | Dog Walking | House Sitting on January 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    […] educating and advising their clients about the possibility to test the pet’s antibodies?? The Titer Test is a simple blood test to find out if a pet has enough to be immune for a particular disease or if […]

  5. lauren on January 1, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I have been researching this subject on a personal level for awhile and am in talks with our vet on not revaccinating our pets.
    We are also in the processes of purchasing an established boarding/daycare facility that has a policy of requiring yearly vaccines. Is there a way to incorporate only requiring titer testing into a business like this? I feel that as the owner it is hipocritical/against my morals to require it of clients when I will not be re-vaccinating my own dogs. I do not, however, want to lose business or alienate clients. I would like to educate them in a non-critical way. Do you have recomendations for how to change this policy as well as help educate clients?

    • adminjr on January 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Lauren. I’m so happy that you’re not only limiting your vaccination plans for your own pets, but also helping others to do so.

      Start by reading this: https://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

      More and more people are worried about over-vaccinating. They’re learning about titer testing and will be thrilled to find a facility that allows it. Make it a selling point. If they’re uneasy, explain that titer testing is the only way to make sure that a pet has immunity. Simply vaccinating does not. If they prefer to vaccinate, fine. You tried.

      I always tell people, if they’re worried about their own dogs being around dogs that haven’t been recently vaccinated, to think it through. If vaccination prevents disease, then their vaccinated dogs are safe from any dogs without recent vaccine histories! Besides, just injecting a vaccine doesn’t ensure immunity. Show them my article on titer testing. Also, show them Dr. Ron Schultz’s article on immunity from vaccines: https://truth4pets.org/2012/06/duration-of-immunity/ Ask all clients to sign a letter that you informed them of your policy.

      One more thing: read this post about Bordetella. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2012/03/21/bordetella-does-your-dog-really-need-the-kennel-cough-vaccine/ Dogs often get sick from being around dogs recently vaccinated with the Bordetella vaccine.

      At the risk of sounding pushy, my recent e-book (which reached #2 in dog care on Amazon) explores the subject in detail. It’s just $3.99 and all proceeds benefit dog causes. (Especially see the section on “Resisting Pressure to Over-Vaccinate.”) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q6048BK Or look around my Truth4Pets website. It has lots of free articles and links that will help.

      I hope this helps.

  6. Laura on October 9, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hello – I find this subject extremely interesting and can’t help but take this a step further and question whether this type of testing could be so designed to work for humans. Seems like it would already exist…what, if anything, do you know about this? Thanks for your dedication to such a worthy cause.

    • adminjr on October 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Laura, I suspect that titer testing was developed for humans first. Some people test their children so as not to over-vaccinate. Interestingly, vets, who have to take the rabies vaccine in vet school, test titers every few years rather than over-vaccinate themselves. Okay for their own health but not good enough for their clients???? Drives me crazy.

      • Julie on November 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

        I was titer tested for MMR at work as I refused the shot. So it does exist, but they try not to let you know that as they want vaccine compliance.

  7. Carmen Mifsud on September 30, 2014 at 7:23 am

    can you please help me find a lab where i can send in blood work for my 2 dogs? i’m in brampton, on, but mississauga is fine as well. i am very interested in titer testing, as my boys did not do well with their recent and last vaccs. i found a vet that does titer, but it will cost $400 per dog, outrageous! i love my dogs, but i do have financial limits. i would love to find a vet at a very reasonable cost or find a lab that i can send the blood work to. please help!

    • adminjr on September 30, 2014 at 8:45 am

      Carmen, that’s outrageous to charge so much. A parvovirus/distemper titer is likely the only one you need. At hemopet, a lab run by one of the top vaccination experts, it costs $52. Draw the blood locally and send it to them, or have a vet do it, using their instructions. https://labordatenbank.com/cake/hemopet/samples/hemopet_form

      Re any other vaccines, they’re likely not needed. Please read https://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

      • Carmen Mifsud on September 30, 2014 at 8:55 am

        yes, i thought that was outrageous as well. i am so saddened and disappointed in the vet standard that i have experienced. and it looks like it’s the norm based on reading a lot of similar experiences.
        i think it’s to discourage titer test and encourage the yearly poison injection.
        i will look into hemopet, thank you.
        i also sent an email to the University of Guelph, asking if they do lab testing. i’m still waiting for their response. thanks for all the great info. what do you think of vacci check?

        • adminjr on September 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

          Carmen, the thing I like about hemopet is that their price for the combined parvo/distemper titer is $52. So that’s $104 total for your dogs, plus the price to draw blood and send it. Also, Dr. Jean Dodds, known far and wide for her expertise, reads and INTERPRETS the test. If you have questions about the results, you can email her. Note that the testing has to be seldom if ever repeated. Some vets profit by doing it yearly. Another scam.

          A rabies titer is not typically done unless you’re traveling abroad or have a specific need to know the results.

          I have become friends with Dr. Dodds because of my support of the RabiesChallengeFund.org and because we have fought two outrageous CA vaccination laws together. I do not profit from her testing in any way.

          • Carmen Mifsud on September 30, 2014 at 10:36 am

            thank you for all your info! i will definitely use hemopet when the time is needed. i did sign the rabies challenge petition. thank you for all your hard work re: our beloved pets! keep it up, and from a pet lover, your work is deeply appreciated!
            very comforting to know people like you are out there. 🙂

    • Carmen Mifsud on September 30, 2014 at 9:03 am

      the pricing is as follows, from a vet in mississauag:

      distemper: 96.50
      parvo: 96.50

      if done together: 147
      rabies: 196.50

      plus HST (13%), sorry, should have been more specific.

  8. Deborah Mackay on July 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    If my hybrid Savannah cat bites someone, is a positive titer test for rabies enough to prove the cat doesn’t have rabies or do they still have to test brain tissue? We live in California.
    Thanks, Deb

    • adminjr on July 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Deborah, it probably depends on where your cat lives and if the cat was suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. I’d contact Dr. Jean Dodds, a CA vet who is an expert on the subject. Write me at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/contact and I’ll give you her contact info.

  9. TiredofB.S. on May 2, 2014 at 12:01 am

    After leaving a vca HoSpiTal, with a 10lb.canine that has ITP,and was currently being treated with prednisone(no longer under any vets care, 50 MCG vitamin k a day…) we were given a list of “*OVERDUE*” VACCINATIONS Guardia,Heartworm Refill,Heartworm test,Parvo,Distemper,Rattlesnake, Flea Prevention,Leptospirosis,Bortadella,Rabies, what are they trying to do Kill her? Shes 10 lbs………I never thought I would be treated like a pariah, for stating, I’m going to give her colostrum, Im headed for the dairy now…..I’m going to try vitamin k, that was enough to get me called, a killer. Yes, a killer. Its been approx. 2 years with the vitamin k. Eyes look good, no visible signs of bleeding, occasional questionable stool.but that’s usually after beef liver. Anyhow, don’t want to bore y’all. But after I saw Dr. Margo? DVM. Site, where she talks of how she vaccinated her standard poodle, and then watched his demise….I come to the end of allowing anyone to treat me as if, my choices as a steward for this innocent creature, are irrelevant. I know in the end I have heard ” Do No Harm”. Best Regards.

    • adminjr on May 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Tired of BS, I admire your spunk and your responsibility to your dog. You’re right: those vaccines would likely have made your dog very ill, or worse. The vet was wrong and you were right.

      Dr. Margo Roman is a good friend, and a great vet. I know all about what vaccines did to her dog. She is one of the animal world’s great advocates.

  10. Ken Webster on April 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I’m the parent of a 16 month old neutered female Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier in Edmonton, Alberta who got all of the standard puppy vaccinations.
    We got titer testing done when it was time for the yearly booster and got results of 1/50 for distemper (which the vet says is good), 1/10 for parvo (which the vet says is lowish as 1/50 is good) and 0.1 for rabies (which the vet says is very low and almost non-existent as 0.5 is OK). The vet says we should consider a booster for parvo and should definitely get a rabies booster (although she also says that rabies is not a problem in Alberta and that they don’t even vaccinate most horses for it here). Please provide some direction here. Many thanks for your time and consideration.

    • adminjr on May 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Ken, do you still need help with vaccinating your dog? I just saw your post.

      • Vonnie Noble on April 2, 2015 at 8:38 am

        We have the same problem as Ken. Our 2 year old Pekingese was titer tested. Distemper came back at 1:16. Parvo came back at 1:40. The vet wants us to vaccinate because she says the results show he has little immunity. If we don’t vaccinate are we risking Smokey’s health? I have read that any positive titer means that the dog has immunity. Is this true? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We have lost 2 dogs to auto immune disease and we are worried about re vaccinating.

  11. How Often Should you Vaccinate Your Dog? on April 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

    […] Rabies Challenge Fund Schultz: Dog vaccines may not be necessary Pet Vaccinations, Titer Testing & Homeopathic Nosodes, by Dr. Rehanni Khaseipoul, DVM Study on Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines, by Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM How Much Money are You Wasting on Pet Vaccines? by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM Learn about Titer testing […]

  12. Bordetella Vaccination for Dogs: Fraud and Fallacy | touch of home on April 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    […] bordetella vaccine for my guests. Now I only require, parvo, distemper, and rabies vaccine or titer testing. I do not board my pets, ever; however they do go to dog parks, dog beaches and some pet events. […]

  13. joell bohle on April 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Interested in at home titer test. Is there one? And do titers have to be tested on blood?

    • adminjr on April 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Joell, to my knowledge, there is no home titer test. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable drawing the blood. The in-house titer tests are the next best thing.

  14. Vaccinosis: Over vaccinating your pet by Pat Gray | Critters 360 on March 31, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    […] http://healthypets.mercola.com/…/pets-over-vaccination_disease…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabies_virushttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvovirushttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_distemperhttp://healthypets.mercola.com/…/pets-over-vaccination_disease…https://truth4pets.org/2012/06/titer-testing/http://www.naturalrearing.com/coda/l_nosodes.html […]

  15. How do you read the titer test? - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums on January 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

    […] to vaccinate depending on your own circumstances and the risks. Here is a link with some basics: Titer Testing: A Crash Course | Truth4Pets I have always been told that vaccines are only for healty dogs. With Babinka's special heart, I […]

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  17. Vaccine Wars: The Great Debate | TBN Ranch on May 31, 2013 at 9:29 am

    […] years, then every three years until the age of 9.  After the age of nine I have an occasional Titer Test from the vet to determine their level of immunity. I’ve yet to have one come back suggesting […]

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