Vacci-Check - The Safer Alternative to Annual Boosters

Vacci-Check - The Safer Alternative to Annual Boosters


Titre testing is a safe way to ensure that your dog is already immunised against the core diseases that are covered in your dog’s annual booster vaccinations. Getting your dog titre tested allows you to make a more informed decision on whether you should get their boosters done.

More often than not, as long as your dog has had their initial puppy vaccinations, these can protect your dog from the core diseases (parvovirus, hepatitis and distemper) for life!

Many vets do not inform their clients that the guidelines for vaccination of these 3 core diseases actually state that these should be given no more frequently than once every 3 years, (see this vaccination information sheet under the heading "Amounts to be administered and administration route") and many vets also do not tell you about titre testing which can be done before vaccination is considered. Most vets will continue to routinely administer booster vaccinations during their annual health check instead of offering this alternative. Some of the vets who do offer titre testing charge very high fees (in excess of £100 in some practices) due to external laboratory costs and some also add on a consultation fee. Over-vaccination can cause a number of heath issues, some more serious than others.

Over-vaccination can account for the high number of dogs these days who have developed allergies to food. Particularly with proteins such as chicken and beef, as these proteins are used when growing some of vaccines and subsequently are then injected into your dog which can cause the body to react to these proteins. More information regarding this can be found here.


Leptospirosis (called Weil's disease in humans) and Bordetella (Kennel Cough) are not able to be tested for this way as the antibodies do not stay in the dogs blood for more than 12 months. Careful consideration should be made when deciding whether your dog needs a Leptospirosis vaccination as some concerning side effects have been reported in some dogs, which has been found particularly with the L4 vaccination. Vets either use Lepto-2 (containing 2 strains of Leptospirosis) or Lepto-4 (containing 4 strains). It is important to note that Lepto in the UK is rare. Since 2010 it is no longer listed as a reportable disease in dogs, but cases are still reported in humans contracting Weil's disease, and these cases are more commonly reported in people who have returned from abroad or are involved in outdoor water sports such as kayaking. The Leptospira bacteria is transmitted via infected urine from mainly rats and mice, but can also be transmitted by horses, pigs and dogs. The bacteria live in fresh water or soggy ground that is usually in stagnant shaded areas, and dogs (and humans) can contract this by ingesting the water, or via cuts and grazes. The bacteria cannot survive in light or temperatures above 20 degrees.

In a 2016 study it was shown that the risk factor for dogs contracting leptospirosis was 0.0008%. The risk factor of adverse reactions to the leptospirosis vaccinations are 0.016% for the L2 vaccination, and 0.045% for the L4 vaccination (reference). So this seems to suggest there is greater risk from the vaccines themselves than contracting the disease.

The vaccination does not prevent a dog from contracting the disease, but reduces the severity of it.

There is an entire website dedicated to the awareness of the effects that some dogs may experience from the Leptospirosis vaccination

There are also a couple of Facebook pages highlighting people's experiences of Lepto vaccination affects:

You need to take into consideration the lifestyle and the environment in which you walk your dog to assess whether you think the risk of vaccinating against Lepto is lower or higher than the risk of them contracting this rare disease. In Dr Nick Thompson’s video below (Holistic Vet Ltd), he does explain more about these diseases and the associated vaccinations.


Periodically, our local holistic vet Graham Hines comes into our store to carry out the titre testing. It’s just a quick blood sample taken from your dog’s foreleg and you will then get the results the following day. Each appointment takes 10-15 mins. 2-3 dogs can be seen within this time.

It costs £40 per dog, and most people repeat these titre tests every 2-3 years. Once they have antibodies against these diseases, the titre levels can drop over time, but this does not mean that they are any less protected!

If you have a puppy (under 12 months old), and their final puppy vaccination was at less than 14-16 weeks old, then there is a risk that the maternal antibodies (received from the mother) could have interfered with the vaccine providing immunity to your dog. Therefore it is advisable to check for the presence of the required antibodies via titre testing, anytime after 4 weeks from receiving their final vaccination to assess immunity.


If you would like to find out more information on titre testing, over-vaccination and the risks, I have included some useful videos below, and a link with further information regarding the vaccine guidelines from the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) if you wish to delve deeper into this publicly available information.

Even if you are not local to our store, please check the locations near to you which offer the vacci-checks using this map.

The Gut Doctor talks Puppies, Vaccines and Food Choices

You will need a Vimeo login to view this video from this link, which you can set up for free. Alternatively visit the Holistic Vet Ltd website and find the video titled “Gut Doctor: Puppies & Vaccines”.

This video covers vaccinations and also raw feeding for pups. Vaccine information is given in this video from 2 mins in, up to 20 mins and again from 31 mins when he answers some questions.

Dr. Becker: Are Vaccinations Necessary for Pets?

This is a US based video, so it does mention vaccinations against diseases that we do not vaccinate against in the UK, but it does highlight very well the risks of over-vaccination, which is still very relevant across this side of the pond!

WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) Vaccination Guidelines

Here is the link to the full WSAVA guidelines on vaccination. I have taken some extracts from these guidelines below to highlight the points that I think you as pet owners should be aware of, particularly when speaking to your vet regarding the frequency of vaccinations, and the benefits of titre testing. There is much more in depth information within these guidelines, so for those of you who want to explore this further, just click this link above.

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Core vaccines protect animals from severe, life-threatening diseases that have global distribution. Core vaccines for dogs are those that protect against canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV) and the variants of canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2). Core vaccines for cats are those that protect against feline parvovirus (FPV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1). In areas of the world where rabies virus infection is endemic, vaccination against this agent should be considered core for both species, even if there is no legal requirement for routine vaccination.

The VGG (Vaccine Guidelines Group) recognizes that maternally derived antibody (MDA) significantly interferes with the efficacy of most current core vaccines administered to pups and kittens in early life. As the level of MDA varies significantly among litters, the VGG recommends the administration of multiple core vaccine doses to pups and kittens, with the final dose of these being delivered at 16 weeks or older or above and then followed by a booster at 6- or 12-months of age. In cultural or financial situations where a pet animal may only be permitted the benefit of a single vaccination, that vaccination should be with core vaccines at 16 weeks of age or older.

The VGG supports the use of simple in-practice tests for determination of seroconversion to the core vaccine components (CDV, CAV, CPV-2 and FPV) following vaccination, for determination of seroprotection in adult dogs and for management of infectious disease outbreaks in shelters.

Vaccines should not be given needlessly. Core vaccines should not be given any more frequently than every three years after the 6- or 12-month booster injection following the puppy/kitten series, because the duration of immunity (DOI) is many years and may be up to the lifetime of the pet.

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A second major concept regarding vaccination of dogs and cats has been the recognition that we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on individual animals in order to minimize the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products and reduce the time and financial burden on clients and veterinarians of unjustified veterinary medical procedures.

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Revaccination of Adult Dogs

Dogs that have responded to vaccination with MLV core vaccines maintain a solid immunity (immunological memory) for many years in the absence of any repeat vaccination. Following the 26 or 52 week booster, subsequent revaccinations are given at intervals of 3 years or longer. It should be emphasized that triennial adult revaccination does not generally apply to killed core vaccines (except for rabies) nor to the non-core vaccines, and particularly not to vaccines containing bacterial antigens. Thus Leptospira (Leptospirosis), Bordetella (Kennel Cough) and Borrelia (Lyme disease) products, but also parainfluenza virus components, require more frequent boosters for reliable protection.

An adult dog that had received a complete course of core vaccinations as a puppy, including a 26 or 52 week booster, but that may not have been vaccinated regularly as an adult, requires only a single dose of MLV core vaccine to boost immunity . Similarly, an adopted adult dog (or puppy over 16 weeks of age) of unknown vaccination history requires only a single dose of MLV core vaccine to engender a protective immune response. Many vaccine datasheets will advise in these circumstances that the dog requires two vaccinations (as for a puppy), but this practice is unjustified and contrary to fundamental immunological principles. Note again, that this does not apply to non-core vaccines, many of which will require two doses in an adult dog.

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Serological Testing to Monitor Immunity to Canine Vaccines

Since publication of the 2010 guidelines there have been advances in the availability of rapid and simple in-practice serological test kits that can detect the presence of protective antibody specific for CDV, CAV and CPV-2 in individual dogs. These test kits complement the traditional laboratory-based modalities (i.e. virus neutralization and haemagglutination inhibition test) that remain the ‘gold standards’ for serological testing. These test kits have proven popular with veterinarians who wish to be able to offer their clients an alternative to routine core revaccination at 3-yearly intervals.

A negative test result indicates that the dog has little or no antibody, and that revaccination is recommended. Some seronegative dogs are in fact immune (false-negative) and their revaccination would be unnecessary because they would make a rapid and substantial anamnestic response to vaccination (Mouzin et al. 2004). However, such dogs cannot be detected readily and an animal with a negative result, regardless of the test used, should be considered as having no antibody and potentially susceptible to infection. In contrast, a positive test result would lead to the conclusion that revaccination is not required.

A dedicated owner may wish to confirm that a puppy is protected after the course of primary vaccinations when these are completed at 16 weeks or older. A serum sample taken at least 4 weeks after the final vaccination may be tested. This interval will ensure that MDA is no longer present and that even ‘slow responder’ puppies have seroconverted. A seropositive puppy would not require a 26 or 52 week booster and could next receive core vaccine 3 years later. Seronegative puppies should be revaccinated and retested. If the pup again tests negative, it should be considered a non-responder that is possibly incapable of developing protective immunity. Testing for antibody is presently the only practical way to ensure that a puppy’s immune system has recognized the vaccinal antigen. Vaccines may fail to induce protective immunity in a puppy for various reasons.

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