Immunize or Titer?

by Eileen Bertie

Published January 2006

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My best friend was Martha Kohlmeyer of Odin Persians, a renowned breeder of lilac and chocolate Persians. For years, I listened to her lectures about the dangers of over-immunization. 

When my friend passed away in 2003, I inherited one of Martha's favorite cats, CH, GP Odin Quantum Leap, affectionately known as "QL".

I am sure that QL hadn’t had any vaccinations since around 1985.

With the approach of Thanksgiving week in 2004, my family decided on a mini-vacation... but what would we do with QL?

I didn’t trust anyone to give her the kind attention I wanted her to have.  Instead, I decided to take her to a Pet Resort.  One of their requirements was that all their "clients" needed to have a recent veterinary exam and health certificate. So...off we went to the veterinarian for a check up. When asked about her immunization history, I had to say I had no idea, but that she probably needed all her shots before she could be boarded.

To my surprise, the vet stated that he didn’t recommend shots every year; that the veterinary profession had come to realize that animals' immune systems retained immunity longer than had traditionally been thought.  What he recommended instead of a routine vaccination for our senior citizen, was a titer of the blood to determine the level of resistance the animal had to diseases.

A vaccine titer is a blood test that measures the antibody level a cat is carrying against a certain virus.

Not wanting to admit that I knew it had been at least five (probably more) years since QL last had her shots , I resigned myself to the expense of titering QL’s blood and then more than likely having to give her booster vaccinations anyway.

Imagine my shock when the vet reported that her titer was fine and she needed no shots!

Fast forward to 2005, and once again QL needed to be boarded over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Again, we have a titer performed.  Once again, her levels of immunity test sufficient - no immunizations required.   A minimum of five years and probably closer to ten have gone by since the kitty’s last shots, yet her resistance remains high!

I now feel sheepish that I thought my friend was somewhat paranoid when it came to immunizations; after all, we all accepted the “get your shots” philosophy as kids.  Yet, through titering, I have discovered that a cat that I know has gone years without any kind of immunization, still has blood levels showing immunity years after anyone would have thought it would last.

Kudos to Steve Goldberg, D.V.M. for recommending the titer rather than inoculation.

Moral of the Story:  If you re-think the traditional yearly booster theory, you can keep your cats healthy, avoid the risks associated with over-vaccinating, and save money at the same time! If your cats have had regular shots in the past, why not spare your kitty yearly boosters? Talk with your vet about titering before vaccinating if the circumstances are appropriate.

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