Core Vaccine Panels for Dogs and Cats

By Heather Sloan, Dr. William Fortney, Dr. Kelli Almes

Routine vaccination of domestic pets is necessary and has proven to be an effective method of controlling serious diseases once responsible for significant illness and death. Although these vaccines are necessary for the safety of our pets, the recommended frequency in which they are administered is an important consideration.

Core vaccines for dogs and cats are fundamentally safe and are given with the intention of protecting the health of the animal. Problems may arise, however, when subsequent boosters are given more frequently than is necessary, especially in immunocompromised animals. Experimental studies have shown that the duration of immunity following vaccination actually persists for up to several years or even throughout the lifetime of the animal. For this reason, increasingly more practitioners are opting to use antibody titer tests to monitor immune status as an alternative to following a defined booster schedule.

Antibody titer tests are used to demonstrate the presence of antibody to specific diseases within the common core vaccines. Since there is strong correlation between the presence of antibody and protective immunity, this method provides the practitioner and owner valuable information when faced with the decision to revaccinate. If antibody levels are determined to be within protective range, the owner may choose to forego a booster. On the other hand, if antibody levels are below the protective range, it is recommended that the animal be revaccinated unless underlying medical issues prevent doing so.

The Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) now offers core vaccine panels for clients who may have concerns regarding the health risks of frequent vaccination, such as in immunocompromised animals, animals with a known history of adverse reactions to vaccinations, or animals with a serious disease that may be aggravated by vaccination.

The panel offerings include:

  • Rabies
  • Canine Core (includes canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and canine adenovirus type)
  • Feline Core (includes feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, and feline panleukopenia virus)

Results include antibody titers to each virus as well as booster recommendations based upon current AAHA and AAFP standards. Each panel requires 0.5 ml of serum (both centrifuged and poured off the clot, or in a serum separator tube) submitted with a cold pack.

KSVDL does not advocate either increasing or decreasing the number or frequency of core vaccinations, but aims to provide veterinarians with the tools necessary to make vaccine-related medical decisions they feel best for the health of individual patients. It is also important to remember that regardless of antibody levels, local laws and regulations must be followed when making decisions concerning vaccine administration.

The core vaccine panels are currently offered at an exclusive discount available only through online submissions which involves a simple one-time account enrollment. Once an account has been set up, the client will receive an email with detailed information regarding the tests and submission instructions.

For more information, please contact KSVDL Client Care at 866-512-5650 or

Heather Sloan received a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Microbial Biology from Emporia State University. She is currently a Virology lab technician at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Dr. William Fortney is a 1974 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed a residency in small animal medicine at Purdue University. Dr. Fortney was the head of small animal medicine and the director of community practice at KSU College of Veterinary Medicine for many years. He is currently the small animal outreach coordinator for the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Dr. Almes received her DVM from Kansas State University in 2005 and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathology in 2009 after completion of a residency. Since that time she has served as a diagnostic pathologist at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and currently acts as director of the Client Services & Necropsy areas.

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