Inexpensive titering

What is a titer?

An antibody titer is a measurement of how much antibody a dog has against a disease. All that is needed to do a titer is a small blood sample.

Why titer?

Vaccines are the most effective method to prevent infectious diseases. I believe that all dogs - and people! - should get recommended core vaccines. Vaccination is very safe. Vaccines stimulate the immune system. It is hypothesized that over-vaccination may be a cause of some auto-immune diseases. Rather than re-vaccinating on a set schedule and possibly over-vaccinating, checking the antibody levels via titering can indicate when booster vaccines are really necessary. Titering can also be used to make sure that puppy shots are working properly and protecting a puppy.

Can my vet titer my dog?

You can ask your vet to titer your dog, but - depending on the lab your vet uses - it can be very expensive. Inexpensive titering requires a little work on your part, but it is not hard. Total cost is around $50. I use the University of Wisconsin Titer Testing Laboratory, which I will refer to as "the lab".

How to do inexpensive titering.

1. Call your vet's office and make an appointment to have their technician draw some blood from your dog. Explain that it is for a titer, and that you will be taking the sample with you to mail. You do not need an appointment with your vet.

2. Bring the instructions for a "Canine Distemper/Parvo Titer Panel", which the vet tech will want to read. You should also bring the Serum Submission Form, as you will need to get information about your dog's recent vaccines.

3. Your vet tech will draw a small about of blood from your dog, and spin it down to get serum. You will be handed a test tube with a small amout of serum. Also ask for a cold pack. If you have a long drive home or the weather is warm, it is best to place the serum tube and cold pack in a small cooler. When you get home put the serum tube and cold pack in your freezer.

4. You can go straight from your vet's office to the post office, but I usually just take the sample home and freeze it. You want to mail the sample two-day priority to arrive on a week day. I find it easier to just go to the post office and mail on a Monday.

5. Since I prefer to wrap my package at home - rather than in the post office parking lot - I pick up ahead of time from the post office their "Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box".

6. The US Post Office has special packaging instructions to mail biological samples, such as a dog's serum. It must be triple-wrapped. The test tube is the first wrapping, the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box will be the outer third wrapping. I wrap the serum tube in some paper towel (in case of breakage) and then put the serum tube in a zip lock bag (the second wrapping).

7. The second wrapping is supposed to be marked with the international biohazard symbol. What I do is print out the symbol, fold the piece of paper, and put it in the zip lock bag with the serum tube so that the symbol is visible.

8. In a separate zip lock bag, put the filled out Serum Submission Form and a check. Also put the cold pack in a bag (just in case it leaks).

9. Now put all three pieces - the bag with the serum tube, the bag with the paperwork, and the bag with the cold pack - in the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box. Add paper towels so that nothing is loose.

10. On the outside of the box write "Exempt Animal Specimen". Address the box with the Printable Address Label. Take the box to the post office and mail.

That's it! In a couple of weeks you will receive an email from the lab with a recommendation as to whether your dog still has sufficient antibodies, or whether your dog needs a booster.

18 July 2019