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Combination Shots for Dogs: Weapons of Over-Vaccination

Whombo combos, mumbo jumbos: that’s what veterinarians who understand immunology call combination shots. Unlike a vaccine such as rabies, which contains a single virus, combination vaccines contain multiple “modified live” viruses mixed with various bacteria. Think of them as toxic soups, biochemical wolves in sheep’s clothing. When your vet sends out reminders to bring your dog “up to date on shots,” expect the whombo combo. Beware the wolf.

You’ve probably seen combo shots listed on your vet bill as DHLPP, DHLPPC, DA2LPPC, 5-Way, 6-Way, 7-Way, 7 in 1 or the like. After you learn more about them, you won’t want to see them on a bill again.

Why would your vet use combination shots?

Profit and convenience are the big selling points. Vets in large corporate practices, even those who don’t like combo shots, may be under orders to use them.

I suspect some vets don’t realize (or want to believe) how dangerous these weapons of over-vaccination can be. Pharmaceutical reps, frequent visitors to veterinary clinics, promote the shot’s many benefits for the vets while minimizing potential risks for pets. Adverse reaction reporting is voluntary and rare. The 2007 World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Vaccine Guidelines reports (regarding all vaccines) there is: “gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products.” Unless a vet is an avid veterinary journal reader, he/she may be stuck in the mindset of believing shots are safe and that if shots are good, more shots are better.

Proponents say that the combo saves Spot multiple needle pricks, and saves you and your vet time and money. True — but only if vaccinating against multiple diseases is really necessary … and only if expensive adverse reactions don’t occur.

Why should you avoid combination shots?

Immunity given by some vaccine components can last for years, even a lifetime, but other components may give immunity for less a year, yet they’re packaged together.

This is the pharmaceutical equivalent of packaging beef jerky and ice cream together. To keep immunity strong with short-duration vaccines, the long-duration vaccines have to be given again and again needlessly. This exposes your dog repeatedly, for no good reason, to adverse reactions which may include skin diseases, autoimmune disease, allergies and even death. Vets who still, for monetary reasons or ignorance, vaccinate annually find this practice quite convenient. Jab away. But vets who’ve switched to vaccinating every three years — which is still a misunderstanding of current guidelines recommending vaccinating “no more often” than every three years — aren’t using the short-duration vaccines often enough. Either they don’t believe the short-duration shots are really necessary (which is usually true) or they are being negligent and putting your dog at risk.

Some combo components are made from viruses, some are from bacteria, all delivered at once with a dangerous punch.

Dr. Patricia Jordan, author of Mark of the Beast, writes about one manufacturer’s combo shot: “… the absolutely worse adverse vaccine reactions have been noted with … the “mumbo jumbo” polyvalent with several modified live viruses, killed whole bacterins of Leptospirosis, killed corona virus (the vaccine looking for a disease), lots of adjuvant, mercury, aluminum, antibacterial like gentocin, antifungal and fungi stats, proprietary ingredients of whose true identity makes me shudder to even speculate.”

Author Catherine J.M. Diodati wrote about combination shots in her Vaccine Guide for Dogs & Cats: “The number of pathogens plus toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that the animals are exposed to all at once generate an enormous toll on the immune system. The results can be devastating.”

Small dogs and puppies suffer more adverse reactions when receiving multiple antigens at once.

Melissa Kennedy, DVM, PhD, DACVIM wrote in DVM360 on-line magazine: “The likelihood of adverse reactions in dogs has been found to correlate with the size of the dog and the number of inoculations given, with higher risk associated with small size and multiple inoculations.”

Renowned pet vaccination expert Dr. Jean Dodds has written about combo shots (she calls them combo whombos) that they: “can overwhelm the immunocompromised or even a healthy host…. The recently weaned young puppy or kitten being placed in a new environment may be at particular risk.”

This means: no combo shots for small dogs — or any other dog for that matter. And NEVER EVER GIVE ANY OTHER SHOT — ESPECIALLY A RABIES SHOT — WITHIN 3 WEEKS OF A COMBO. This also means no Bordetella given nasally. Giving rabies and Bordetella with a combo could mean as many as 9 shots in one day. Some dogs don’t survive this.

If your dog experiences a reaction to the combo shot, there is no way to determine which antigen caused the reaction and must be avoided in the future.

Determining which antigen caused the reaction is like trying to determine which ingredient is causing an allergic reaction to kibble. It can’t be done.

If all this isn’t bad enough, the components are unnecessary for most adult dogs, the great majority of which have lifetime immunity to the important shots or have no need for other ingredients.

So, exactly what’s in these combination shots?

The ingredients differ, but here are some in the most common combos.

Give me a D! Give me a P!

The D is for distemper and one P is for parvovirus. Your dog very likely has lifetime immunity to both if he has had even one shot for these diseases after 4 months of age. These are important shots, but they needn’t be given again and again. In fact, adult dogs rarely need revaccination for parvovirus and distemper and there is a simple blood test called a titer test that your vet can run to prove immunity.

H stands for hepatitis, a disease virtually nonexistent in North America. Sometimes this is expressed as A2, or adenovirus 2, which gives cross protection to hepatitis. According to the 2006 American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force Report, it gives immunity for 7 or more years. To protect against the disease reemerging, renowned pet vaccination expert Dr. Ron Schultz recommends giving adenovirus-2 just once after a dog is 16 weeks old.

L is for leptospirosis, a highly-reactive “non-core” shot (says the AVMA, AAHA, AHVMA, and all North American vet schools). Non-core vaccines are to be given only in special cases, not to every dog who trots into the clinic. It often doesn’t even protect against the specific disease strains in your area. Jeffers Pet veterinary supply, a vaccine seller, warns: “Many vets do not recommend vaccinating small dogs or young pups with Lepto. The vaccine is not normally needed and can cause harsh and sometimes fatal reactions. House dogs do not need to be vaccinated for Lepto; adult outside dogs need to be vaccinated for Lepto only if there is a possibility of traveling in the same area as feral animals.”

The other P is for parainfluenza (giving immunity for at least 3 years). It is also a non-core shot and does not protect against the canine flu.

C is for coronavirus, a vaccine specifically “not recommended” by any major vet organization or school. Extremely rare, it’s called “a vaccine looking for a disease.” Diodati reports that the reactions from the shot are more dangerous than the disease itself.

Combination shots are part of the unethical practice of over-vaccination of pets. They should have no place in your dog’s health care regimen. And vets who use them should have no place in your dog’s life.

Did your vet inform you fully about this shot before giving it?

If your dog was given a combo shot, and your vet didn’t explain exactly what was in it, why your dog needed it, why your dog may not have needed certain components, and what adverse reactions they may cause, change vets (and tell him/her why) and report that vet to your state veterinary board for using products not backed by science and not informing you properly. This is the only way things will change. Veterinarians have a legal obligation to obtain your informed consent before vaccinating by fully disclosing benefits and risks of the suggested shot — and alternatives. Of course, had they told you the truth about these shots, you’d probably wouldn’t have consented.

Alternatives to Combo Shots

To avoid the combination shot, you have to take action and be willing to stand up to your vet (or switch vets). Most are reluctant to give up their cash cow. Here’s what to do:

  1. Test titers for parvovirus and distemper. If titers are strong, don’t revaccinate. (If weak, read my article.) Forgo lepto, coronavirus, hepatitis and everything else unless your dog has an urgent, proven need because of the special circumstances of his lifestyle.
  2. Avoid clinics that subscribe to “one size fits all” vaccination even though all vet schools and organizations recommend otherwise.
  3. If you’re vaccinating a puppy, or a young dog with low antibody titers, ask your vet to use a monovalent vaccine (meaning the vial contains only one vaccine). Also, use vials with only one dose to avoid the extra chemicals preventing contamination in multi-dose vials. Three readily available vaccines include: Galaxy Pv (a shot containing only parvovirus, offering 7+ years of immunity) and Galaxy D (a shot containing only distemper, giving 5 or more years of immunity). If those aren’t available, use Intervet Progard Puppy DPV containing both parvovirus and distemper but nothing else.
  4. If your vet won’t purchase monovalent shots (protesting that his distributor doesn’t carry them), purchase them yourself and have your vet give them. Refrigerate until use. Better yet, have them sent to your vet by the reseller. You may not be able to purchase just one vial, but the extra cost is worth the savings from potential adverse reactions.
  5. Better still, find a holistic vet who’ll know how to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, without harming your dog and already use monovalent vaccines.

I asked holistic vet Tamara Hebbler what she thought about combo shots. She responded: “I won’t give them. Ever! You couldn’t pay me enough to use them. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with your dog’s health. The risks are just too great.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


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  • 10 Responses to Combination Shots for Dogs: Weapons of Over-Vaccination

    1. Rosiane Sousa

      Boa tarde. Diante desse assunto sobre revacinação em cães, eu tenho algumas dúvidas. Tenho dois cães de quatro e cinco anos de idade que são vacinados anualmente com a vacina V10, ou seja, a vacina múltipla. Quero saber quais são os riscos de alternar essas vacinas para um período de três em três anos, ou mesmo por um maior período de tempo entre as vacinas. São animais que vivem dentro de casa, em área urbana. Aguardo mais informações sobre o assunto. Obrigado!

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        Hi Rosiane, I think I understand your question to be that your dogs have been vaccinated annually and whether it is safe to do vaccinations every three years instead. Every three years is more than enough and in fact, due to your dogs’ vaccination history, they may not need to be vaccinated again, ever. This article may be helpful in understanding the duration of immunity from most vaccines:

        I don’t know if you can find a vet to do titers for you where you live (Brazil or Portugal?) but if you can, and your dogs have positive titers, they are protected, and probably for the rest of their lives. If you Google “Dogs Naturally Magazine titers” you’ll find several articles.

    2. Jan

      A few holistic vets’ opinions? Really? How about the top researchers in the field?

      Speaking at the WSAVA Congress in Geneva in June 2010, Professor Michael Day, Chairman of the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group, stated that “in reality, a dog that is appropriately immunized as a pup probably never requires another core vaccine during its lifetime” and advised: “If the owner is in any doubt as to whether the animal is protected against the core vaccine-preventable diseases, then serological testing may be used to allay any fears. The presence of any titre of antibody to CDV (canine distemper virus), CAV (canine adenovirus) and CPV (canine parvovirus) is indicative of protection.”

      If that’s not enough proof, here’s something written by the top researcher in the field, a member of the 2003, 2006 and 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines committee. He posed the question:
      Do the current core vaccines (CDV, CPV-2, FPV, CAV-1/CAV-2) provide a long duration of immunity? A: Yes, at least 7 to 9 years and most likely a lifetime, based on many serologic and challenge studies. These studies include the MLV core vaccines from all the major veterinary biological companies and we now have a minimum DOI study showing at least 5 years for recombinant CDV!

      Canine and Feline Vaccine Questions: Do We Have the Answers?  Schultz R.D.

      Google him. You’ll find 1,720,000 results.

      • Dogs Naturally
        Dogs Naturally

        “Profits are what vaccine critics believe is at the root of the profession’s resistance to update its protocols. Without the lure of vaccines, clients might be less inclined to make yearly veterinary visits. Vaccines add up to 14 percent of the average practice’s income, AAHA reports, and veterinarians stand to lose big. I suspect some are ignoring my work,” says Dr. Ronald Schultz, who claims some distemper vaccines last as long as 15 years. “Tying vaccinations into the annual visit became prominent in the 1980s and a way of practicing in the 1990s. Now veterinarians don’t want to give it up.”

      • Dogs Naturally
        Dogs Naturally

        In 1978, when vets were vaccinating annually, Schultz et al published ‘‘An Ideal (But Not Proven) Immunization Schedule for Dogs and Cats’’. They recommended a series of puppy/kitten vaccinations followed by revaccination at 1 year, then revaccination every 3 years.

        Research was initiated at that time to prove his suspicions and dogs where challenged with exposure to Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus, anywhere from 1 to 11 years after vaccination. Every single dog was protected when exposed to the virus. “The results from this limited group of dogs clearly demonstrated the Norden modified live vaccines provided immunity for at least 11 years against CDV and CPV-2″ says Dr. Schultz. Based on this research, Drs Schultz and Scott recommended triennial revaccination instead of annual revaccination.

        These early recommendations prompted the AAHA to assemble a task force. In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force evaluated the data from these challenge and serological studies and, while noting that the core vaccines had a minimum duration of immunity of at least seven years, compromised in 2003 with the statement that “revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.”

        Task force member Dr. Richard Ford, Professor of Medicine, North Carolina State University, said that the decision to recommend a 3 year revaccination schedule for core vaccines was a compromise. “It’s completely arbitrary…,” he said. “I will say there is no science behind the three-year recommendation…”

    3. Inaccurate, False information

      Before you make any decisions based on the ridiculous claims of this author, you may want to take a look at the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) official position on vaccination. Claiming that the views of this author and the few “holistic” veterinarians she interviewed is anywhere close to mainstream is a fallacy. AAHA provides the highest standard of care in veterinary medicine, and publishes many official policies to assure the highest quality veterinary medicine.


      • Dogs Naturally
        Dogs Naturally

        Most vets go against the 2011 AAHA guidelines and vaccinate more often. Moreover, these very same standards are sponsored by the vaccine manufacturers and vets: and both stand to profit by vaccinating your pets more often, not less. This is why the AAHA and AVMA, upon finding out that the duration of immunity for vaccines was most likely the life of the dog, came up with the arbitrary interval of three years. Immunologist Dr. Richard Ford was on that committee and stated that this interval was arbitrary. The AAHA has known for 40 years that the duration of immunity for vaccines is life, yet their guidelines are in place to protect the vet, not your pet. Vets have their heads in the sand when it comes to immunology – and from your post, I see that vets aren’t the only ones.

    4. Kelsey

      I work at a vet clinic that uses both combo shots and single shots. I choose not to vaccinate my own dogs or cats anymore and there titers are high. However, what is your take on the emerging scare on influenza in dogs? We just had a vaccine rep come in to tell us about their new vaccine for influenza. She says that it is killing many dogs daily in the United states as the disease rapidly progresses to phenomia and our dogs have no natural immunity to it. Is this a valid fear, or more pressure from the vaccine company to sell more and more vaccines for their profit. They always seem like they generally care as they offer to pay for any testing done on any animals with suspected symptoms so they “can learn more” by I wonder if this new vaccine has undergone many safety trials and what is the long term effect of them? I am very skeptical or what these guys have to say now.
      I live in Calgary AB Canada and as of yet, have seen no cases of influenza….

      • Dogs Naturally
        Dogs Naturally

        If you read the article on the bordetalla vaccine, you will see how bordetella originated from vaccinating horses. The same thing has happened with canine influenza – horses at tracks were vaccinated for influenza and the modified live vaccine allowed the virus to jump species into the racing greyhounds. It is a vaccine-induced disease, so that might give you some indication of how effective vaccination will be.

        Newly emerging viruses are now the biggest threat to mankind. In the past 20 years, scientists have discovered around 30 new diseases, a staggering rate of one or two each year, most of them spread from animals to man. All are immune to antibiotics, and they can mutate so fast that the handful of antiviral drugs available quickly become obsolete.

        Medical technology has spawned its own demons…there is no doubt that new medical developments, such as vaccines grown in animal cells or animal-to-human transplants, might easily contribute to an epidemic. Parvovirus was created when vaccine manufacturers cultivated the distemper vaccine on infected cats’ kidneys.

        Nobody has the ability to predict how genetically modified and modified live vaccines act in the environment. The July issue of Dogs Naturally discusses how we are creating these emerging viruses through vaccination, we are excited to get this information into print!

    5. Barbara

      The last time I had my dogs in for vaccinations, I asked about testing titers. It was very expensive. So that left me ambivalent on which path to take. So in the end I got only the minimum that was required.

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