What Is Titer Testing?

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. 

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.

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.