Unless you practice animal healthcare in your spare time, you’ve probably not heard of a titer test. If you’re planning to travel abroad with your dog, or are weary of recurring vaccinations, then consider getting antibody titers for your dog or cat. You’ll be able to determine the immune response to vaccinations.
What is a Titer Test?
A titer test (don’t be like me and say TEET-er test. It’s pronounced TIGHT-er test) is a blood test that measures the level of measuring antibodies of the immune system proteins. Essentially, it’s a blood test on a cat or dog that determines how built up or “strong” their antibody levels are from previous vaccinations (which induce a cell mediated immunity) to specific infectious diseases like distemper, canine parvovirus, adenovirus, lyme disease, and rabies.
Benefits of Getting a Titer Test
There is a growing growing concern for over vaccinating our dogs and cats. Some dogs and pets can also have allergic reactions or other issues to vaccines.
Modern veterinary medicine preaches the importance of vaccinations. While we don’t doubt the positive impact on society that core vaccines have had, it’s also worth noting that some dogs and cats aren’t as susceptible to diseases given their lifestyles. For example, if someone occasionally boards their mostly sedentary dog, then it may not be in the dog’s best interest to get an annual parvovirus vaccination if the risk of exposure is so low.
In the case of my mother’s senior dog who has allergic reactions vaccinations, he no longer gets the canine distemper virus vaccination since he seldom leaves the couch. If my mother wanted, she could get a titer test to determine the strength of his previous vaccinations.
Process for Getting a Titer Test
The first step in getting a titer test is making an appointment with your local veterinary clinics. Any certified and professional clinic will be able to withdraw blood from your pet and ship the sample to an approved international laboratory. The laboratory will measure the level of antibodies and send a certificate in the mail to your veterinarian.
It’s important to note that there are a limited number of approved international veterinarians around the world. So factor in shipping and processing time when planning to complete a test.
Find the list of all EU laboratories here and international laboratories here. In the United States, there are laboratories in Texas, Kansas, Alabama, and Georgia. If you’re in a country that doesn’t have an approved laboratory, your veterinarian can ship the sample to another country. This is common practice, especially in smaller countries and abroad.
Some countries require a titer test for rabies prior to import. Typically, the mandate comes from countries with low risk of rabies, like Japan or when entering low risk rabies countries from high risk countries. For example, we ordered a titer test for Sora before entering Greece (the EU) from Turkey (high risk rabies, non-EU).
We got very lucky in this case because we didn’t find out about the need for a titer test to reenter the EU until well under three months prior to our entry. My family was coming to meet us in Greece for Christmas and we had to get to Greece. Fortunately, we crossed at a very small border, during the Syrian refugee crisis. They didn’t ask about Sora and we didn’t mention her.
Learn from our mistake! If you travel frequently with your dog in and out of various borders, order a titer test. This way, if you realize that you need one at the last minute, you won’t have any stress.
Many countries are exempt from requiring a titer test before entering the EU, including the US, Canada, New Zealand and more. See here for a full list.
For traveling purposes, a titer test must be given 30 days after a rabies vaccination has been administered. This ensures the body has time to build the antibodies to protect against diseases. And you must then wait 3 months after the date the blood was drawn.
***This is important to know when planning to travel. Make sure you plan enough time in advance of travel to have your dog titer test results completed.***
It’s also important to note that a titer test certificate is valid for 2 years. As an example, we know we want to visit Morocco with Laila at some point. After completing her puppy vaccinations, we ordered a titer test to make travel easier.
Traveling internationally with a pet? Check out our other resources about pet travel:
- How to Fly Internationally with a Dog
- 14 Questions to Ask before Flying with a Large Dog in Cargo
- Flying with a Dog: Is it Safe?
- Moving to Europe with a Dog
- How to Get an EU Pet Passport
Both Sora and Laila have had tests and they are not cheap. Depending on where you get the test done and what diseases you’re measuring for, the cost can be anywhere from $100 to $300. Personally, we only order the tests when we plan to travel and need the certificate for border crossings.
Unlike other vaccinations, you can’t really save much money by shopping around. This is because the approved laboratories determine the rates and the majority of the expenses are outside of your veterinarian. You may find the actual blood sample procedure may be cheaper at various veterinarians, however, we recommend going with your most trusted veterinarian given the importance of shipping blood samples and receiving paperwork.
Titer tests are becoming more popular as an option to avoid over vaccinating dogs and cats. As a pet owner, it’s important to think about the overall health of your dog or cat before deciding whether or not to stop vaccinations. Consider your situation, your access to animal health care, and the potential for traveling with your pet. For us, traveling with dogs is our thing, so we will always get a titer test for rabies and administer the necessary vaccinations. However, if you have a dog or cat that is susceptible to vaccinations or allergies, you may want to consider getting a titer test rather than blindly vaccinating.