Incorporating Titer Testing in Your Practice
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Paws and Claws Animal Hospital
As vaccine protocols have changed over the past few years, veterinarians have had to examine how to address this important issue. While many have adopted the recommendations to administer core vaccines every 3 years, others have been more resistant to change.
In my practice, I recognize that every patient is an individual with unique needs. While the recommendation to reduce core vaccines to every 3 years is an important step in reducing the administration of unnecessary vaccines, I question the one-size-fits-all approach. My clients don’t see their pets as statistics and prefer a more personalized approach to pet health care. Additionally, because pet owners are keenly aware that our current vaccines can produce long-lasting immunity (in some cases lasting 5 or 10 years or more,) and can cause harmful side effects, they prefer to only vaccinate their pets when absolutely necessary.
As a result, we have been performing titer testing in-house for most of our patients. Since we do the procedure in the office, the cost is minimal, averaging about $20 – $25 per dog. We include the cost of testing in our annual visit, which is a bundle of services including an examination as well as testing of the blood for heartworms, feces for parasites, and a urinalysis. Our markup allows the titer testing to be offered at an affordable price yet allow maximum profit.
We currently do the titer testing on several groups of patientsFirst, all pets coming in for their annual visits receive the titer testing in place of vaccines.
Second, stray animals also get titer testing to prevent over-immunization. Finally, puppies can receive the titer testing 2-3 weeks following their final ”puppy shots” to make sure adequate immunity is present and that no additional booster vaccines are needed.
In-office titer testing is cost effective and most owners will not hesitate to do the testing at a good markup over our cost once the procedure has been explained to them.
Here are some suggestions that worked for us to easily switch owners from regular automatic re-vaccinations to titer testing:
- Emailing clients. By emailing our client list to let them know about this change in our wellness program we were able to let them know before their visits about the use of titer testing as it would replace their pets’ annual vaccinations.
- Social media. Using Facebook, Twitter, and various media we were able to educate our followers about the need for this important change to our annual protocol.
- Website. Our practice website offers pet owners articles about a variety of topics, including the importance of titer testing and the reason annual vaccines are no longer recommended or necessary.
- Handouts. Anytime we make a major change at our practice I write a short handout explaining the change. This handout is given to the client after they are put into the examination room before the visit begins. Once I enter the room I ask if they have any questions about the topic and reiterate the highlights and importance of the information to their pet. This allowed clients who had not received an email from us to learn about titer testing and reinforced the message to those clients who were on our email list.
Offering titer testing is a simple and inexpensive alternative to vaccinations that can bond clients to the practice and still provide economic rewards to the bottom line. Research has shown that pets produce long-lasting immunity to core vaccines. Titer testing allows proper vaccination of susceptible pets when necessary and prevents unnecessary vaccination of pets with active immunity. Clients are open to this personalized level of medical care and will easily adapt to this important change if properly educated and motivated.