So we’ve been talking about vaccines a lot lately. Obviously they are not for every patient all the time. We’ve talked a little about vaccinosis and about not vaccinating unwell pets. That said, I definitely do not like my patients to be unprotected. The things we choose to vaccinate for based on the lifestyle of the pet are important. There is a reason we choose to do those vaccines.
So what if your pet has been experiencing vaccinosis? Obviously revaccinating them might not be a great idea. What if they have a history of a vaccine reaction or have another health problem occurring? What if we simply want to avoid vaccinosis and give as few vaccines as possible. How can we make this goal and the goal of protecting them against infectious disease both happen?
My choice is vaccine titer testing. This is a test that we run on a small sample of serum from blood. In the test we measure the level of antibodies present by marking the antibodies and diluting the sample until they are not detectable anymore. This gives us an objective measurement of the serum antibody level. This test is run frequently in humans who receive rabies vaccination as a way to determine if we should receive a booster vaccine, or if the titer is sufficient to not boost at that time.
This is exactly how we use titers in veterinary medicine. When the level of the titer is sufficient those of us who run this test consider the patient to not need revaccination at that time. Many patients will have good titer levels for many years after their initial puppy or kitten vaccine series, which to me is proof that many patients do not need to be revaccinated every three years. However, there are some patients who will have declining titer levels to a point where they seem to no longer have appropriate levels of circulating antibodies. This is why the mainstream approach is to revaccinate every three years or so (depending on the vaccine).
Where do the antibodies come from? Are there ways to boost these levels without boosting the vaccine? How do vaccines even work?
For answers to these questions and more, keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming vaccine talk!