A Lyme disease titer is a blood test performed on animals suspected of having Lyme disease, an insidious illness caused by the tick-transmitted spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. This blood test determines the presence of antibodies specific for Lyme disease. The concentration of antibody in the blood is expressed as a ratio of the dilution at which it can be detected – the higher the dilution, the more antibody is present. A Lyme disease titer is indicated anytime a tick-borne illness is suspected.
There are no real contraindications to performing this test in an animal suspected of having Lyme disease.
What Does a Lyme Titer Reveal?
A Lyme titer reveals past exposure to Lyme disease but does not always indicate illness. Animals that have been vaccinated for Lyme disease or previously exposed to Lyme disease will have finite Lyme titers. In areas endemic for Lyme disease, a single positive titer is often regarded as an incidental finding. Repeated titers, showing a rising level of antibodies, may be required to determine if the pet should be treated for Lyme disease. A four-fold increase in antibody titer between consecutive testings is normally considered an indication of active Lyme disease.
How Is a Lyme Titer Done?
Your veterinarian draws a blood sample that is placed in a special glass tube. The blood sample is allowed to clot and is then placed in a centrifuge, where it is divided into two parts: serum and a blood clot. The serum is removed for analysis and the blood clot is discarded. Usually, the serum sample is submitted to an outside laboratory for evaluation. Test results are usually available in 1 to 2 days.
Is a Lyme Titer Painful?
The only pain involved is associated with the collection of the blood sample. The pain associated with venipuncture varies from individual to individual, as it does in people.
Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed for a Lyme Titer?
Neither sedation nor anesthesia is normally required to collect the blood sample. However, pets that resent and fight needle sticks and may benefit from tranquilization.