Titre testing is a service that we offer to owners who choose not to vaccinate their adult dogs against distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus. This can be for a variety of reasons; for example the dog may have a health condition that means they cannot safely be vaccinated, or have had a previous vaccine reaction. Titre testing is not a substitute for vaccination and is not suitable for all cases, please see below for more information.

What is a titre test?

A titre test is a blood test that shows the level of antibodies in your dog’s blood against a particular virus or bacteria. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system which help to fight off specific infections. If a dog has high levels of antibodies against a virus, they are considered ‘immune’ (they are less likely to become infected if they come into contact with the virus). Dogs can achieve immunity either by vaccination or by exposure to the virus. Titre testing is available for distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus.

How does vaccination work?

Vaccines stimulate white blood cells to produce antibodies to fight the pathogens/infections. The vaccine contains only a weakened or harmless version of a pathogen, which means that the vaccinated animal is in no danger of developing the disease.

Different vaccinations give different durations of immunity. The Nobivac DHP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus) vaccination has been shown to provide immunity in adult dogs for 3 years.  The Nobivac Leptospirosis vaccination that we use has only been shown to provide cover for 1 year, which is why we recommend dogs are vaccinated for this disease annually.

Can I titre test my puppy instead of vaccination?

Titre testing does not give meaningful results in very young dogs, because the antibodies passed from their mother are present until several months of age. Therefore, unless there is a convincing medical reason not to, we STRONGLY recommend all puppies are vaccinated.

How are the results interpreted?

We run the test in house and will usually be able to give a result the same day. The results will be either positive, negative or inconclusive for distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus. A positive result indicates that the dog has circulating antibodies to that virus and so is likely to be able to fight off infection.

If any of the three viruses we test for are negative or inconclusive on the test, we will recommend a DHP vaccination.

Can I vaccinate just for the one that is low?

Unfortunately no – not at the moment. We cannot vaccinate for just one of these components.

Can I titre test my dog for antibodies against leptospirosis?

It is not possible to titre test the response to leptospirosis (lepto). This is because the immunity to lepto comes from a cellular response, instead of an antibody response.

What do I do about leptospirosis if I cannot test for it? 

We recommend that you vaccinate your dog annually for leptospirosis. When tested by challenge (‘seeing if the dog gets the disease’) in clinical trials, the vaccine only gives reliable protection for 1 year. You can choose not to vaccinate for leptospirosis, but we cannot test immunity for this yet, as discussed above, so your dog may not be immune if it is not vaccinated.

I have heard that there are risks associated with vaccination. Is it safe?

Just as in people, a very small number of dogs may have an adverse reaction to a vaccination. This can range from a small lump at the injection site, or an upset tummy, through to more serious allergic reactions. These kind of reactions are very very rare, however, and our practice takes the view that the risk posed by the diseases that we vaccinate against is greater than the risk posed by vaccination.