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Rabies—Vaccine or Titer?

Protecting your horse against this deadly disease is crucial.

Recently we have had several requests from clients regarding a rabies titer as an alternative to annual rabies vaccines. These inquires have grown out of a concern over vaccinosis. A vaccination is a shot that has been shown to be effective against a specific disease or combination of diseases for a finite length of time. A titer is a blood test that measures the amount of disease-fighting antibodies in the blood at the time the blood is drawn. It is our opinion that a titer is not an acceptable alternative to annual rabies vaccines. We feel the following arguments are compelling:

Medical evidence and research to establish the value of a protective titer for horses does not exist. No one can say with confidence that one specific titer is protective for exposure to rabies while another titer is not.

No state, county, town or other municipal authority in New York will accept a titer as proof of rabies protection. In other words, having a titer without a vaccination will prevent you from bringing the horse onto any state or county fairgrounds or participating in any event where proof of rabies vaccination is required.
In cases of exposure, the NYS Department of Animal Health cannot recognize, as protected, animals for which there is no licensed rabies vaccine.

The cost of the titer is between five and ten times greater than that of the rabies vaccine.

Given that rabies is endemic in Western New York, we feel that the benefits of vaccinating your horse far outweigh any risks associated with receiving the shot itself.

We do not recommend a titer as a substitute for a rabies vaccination for any horse regardless of how the horse is used. Rabies is a 100 percent fatal disease for unvaccinated animals and is one of the most unpleasant ways for anyone, horse or human, to die.

—Courtesy of Dr. Joann Johnson