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What Is Titre Testing?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

If you’re reading this I’m guessing it’s for one of two reasons.

1) You saw/heard the phrase titre testing recently and want to know what it is or

2) You’re concerned about over-vaccinating your dog / want to know if they really need those annual booster jabs. Well, you’ve come to the right place, because I can answer both! *IMPORTANT* This is not an anti-vax post! We are so unbelievably pro-vax (I’m immunocompromised, I love vaccines). I love titre testing because I love vaccines.

So to answer the first question, let's start with What IS Titre Testing? Simply put, titre testing is the name of the test that determines the level of virus immunity that your dog has from their most recent vaccine. It’s a quick and easy blood test and you can use the results to check whether or not they need a booster vaccination. For example, if you have a puppy that got a Parvovirus vaccination at 8 and 12 weeks and they’ve just turned one year old, they may still have full vaccine immunity from those jabs a year ago and not actually require a booster. The titre test is a way to check!

Titre testing in dogs starts with Dr Ronald Schultz PhD a respected Immunologist, who has been studying canine vaccination and it’s efficiency since the 70s. Schultz' research has noted that canine immunity to vaccines can, in many cases, last their whole life time. Specifically, it has found that Parvovirus can last up to 7 years and Distemper for 5-15 years.

A lot of his research is american-based and includes information on vaccines such as rabies and lyme, which are not common in U.K. vaccination.

Schultz' primary recommendation is puppy vaccinations and then annual titre testing but where that isn't viable, he recommends three-year boosters instead of the current typical annual boosters. His studies have found that veterinarians who have switched to a 3-year booster program from an annual one have found no increase in the number of dogs with vaccine preventable diseases.

One of the big arguments for titre testing is the risk of side effects caused by over-vaccination and this is where the internet gets tricky (and a bit fearmonger-y, in my opinion). If you search "dog over-vaccination effects" you'll be presented with a horrifying list that includes everything from cancer to autoimmune disorders to seizures. And I don't doubt that sometimes, over-vaccination has caused these issues- but there's almost no way to conclusively tell. Side effects from over-vaccination are triggered by the build-up of the vaccine over long amounts of time, so often the issues you see are way after the vaccine itself.

In addition to this, and honestly, this one hurts to type...dogs don’t live long enough. The majority of the dogs that are being regularly over-vaccinated throughout their lives are dying of old age before any effects from the over-vaccinations have time to kick in. (I did say it hurts to type.) If we were over-vaccinating humans at the same rates then within 10-20 years you’d start to see side effects but, well, you get the idea. If you really think about it, humans get the majority of their jabs as a baby and a booster as an adult and they last the course. Even a tetanus lasts about ten years, so why would our pets be any different? There's an absolutely incredible overlap between human and canine medicine. (I’m obviously not including flu jabs, which are tweaked every year to match the new strain and not relevant)

This year we took Mars for his first titre test. For dogs (in the U.K, at least), titre tests check for Infectious Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Distemper. We intended to get one when he turned 1 but time got away from us and his epilepsy drama de-railed us. Anyway, we booked it online with a local pop-up titre test clinic, it was £75 and on his appointment day he was in and done within ten minutes. He had a quick blood test taken from his front leg and two days later his results were emailed to us! Mars’s puppy vaccinations were in July 2021 and his titre results, 18 months later were:

Infectious Hepatitis: 4/6

Parvovirus: 5/6

Distemper: 4/6

As great as those numbers are, any number 2 or above is a positive test result and shows that your dog has immunity towards the disease. The numbers themselves don't actually matter or make a difference, 2/6 would still show immunity. A score of 1 or 0 would indicate a negative test result and is when you’d require a booster vaccine.

We wanted to titre because we didn’t want to over-vaccinate but titres are also a great alternative in cases of:

- Adverse reactions to vaccines

- Frequent travelling

- If your dog is immunosuppressed

- If you adopt a dog with unknown vaccination history

Again, this is not an anti-vax post (I seriously love medicine and vaccines and pharmaceuticals). Everyone is going to have their own opinion, as with everything in the dog world but titre testing provides a nice alternative to booster vaccines for those who want or need it. Personally, we love the combination of holistic and pharmaceutical medicine, we feel like it enables us to treat our pets with every tool at our disposal.

More and more kennels and boarding homes are beginning to accept titre test results as an alternative to vaccination records- ourselves included. And no, I don't know if it's pronounced tee-ter or tigh-ter, please don't ask me.


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