Vaccinations and Titer Testing

Our Goal

We promote responsible vaccination practices rooted in scientific reasearch. Vaccinating responsibly means that your pet will be protected from life-threatening contagious diseases like parvo and panleukopenia, while the risk of adverse events following vaccination is minimized.

Our Vaccination Protocol

Puppies and kittens are given core vaccines starting around 8 weeks of age, and boosters are given every 4 weeks until they reach 14-16 weeks of age. The rabies vaccination is given at 16 weeks of age.  

Titer testing means that we are measuring the amount of antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are produced against the weakened form of the virus contained in the vaccine. The presence of antibodies means that the immune system will remember that virus and know how to kill it if your pet is exposed to it in the future.

We strongly recommend checking a titer 2-4 weeks after the last vaccine is given to make sure that your puppy or kitten has immunity to the diseases for which we gave the vaccines. If the titer shows immunity, then we check another titer once your puppy or kitten is 3 years of age. Titer testing is done every three years based on your pet's needs. No boosters are required over that time period, except for rabies. A second rabies vaccination is given one year after the first vaccine.

If titer testing is not done, then we will booster the core vaccines one year after the puppy/kitten series is finished, and then no more often than every 3 years.

For adult dogs and cats, we can start by checking titers. If immunity is not present, then core vaccines are given. 

Further reading
Please refer to the Vaccinations and Titer Testing handout to learn more about vaccines, immunity, and titer testing.

Is titer testing safe?

Yes, researchers have determined the antibody levels of dogs and cats that were exposed to a virus and did not get sick. That tells us what level of antibody correlates with protection from infection.

In addition, studies have been done to show that antibodies against these viruses persist for many years. That is the reason we now give boosters no more frequently than every 3 years, and it is also the reason we recommend checking titers every 3 years.

How does titer testing help my pet?

Adverse events following vaccination can happen, so it is important to only give vaccines when they are needed (i.e. based on results of titer testing). Vaccinating more frequently than necessary increases the risk of an adverse event.  Adverse events can occur:

  • almost immediately (as is the case with anaphylaxis)
  • hours after vaccination (itchiness, hives, and facial swelling that may or may not progress to anaphylaxis)
  • within several hours of vaccination and resolve in a day or two (fever, lethargy, loss of appetite)
  • weeks after vaccination (certain immune-mediated diseases)
  • years after vaccination (fibrosarcoma tumor at the injection site in cats)

What is the bottom line?

It is crucial that all puppies and kittens are:

  • vaccinated against life-threatening diseases
  • tested to verify that vaccination has conferred protection against infection
  • monitored for this protection over their lifetime (i.e. titer tests to determine if revaccination is needed)

Research

Our vaccination schedules follow the recommendations of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

Research by Dr. Ron Schultz, a world-renowned veterinary immunologist and expert on vaccines, greatly influenced our vaccination and titer testing policies.