Combination Shots for Dogs: Weapons of Over-Vaccination

combination shots for dogs

Whombo combos, mumbo jumbos: that’s what veterinarians who understand immunology call combination shots.

What Are Combination Shots For Dogs?

Unlike the rabies vaccine, which is a single shot with only the rabies 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 these names, you won’t want to see them on a bill (or in your dog) 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. And I suspect some vets don’t realize (or want to believe) how dangerous these weapons of over-vaccination can be.

Pharmaceutical reps are frequent visitors to veterinary clinics. They promote the combo shots’ many benefits for the vets … while minimizing the potential risks for pets. Adverse reaction reporting is voluntary and rare. The 2016 World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Vaccine Guidelines report in the section on Adverse Events:  

“… there is gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events, because of the passive nature of reporting schemes, which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products.” 

So, unless a vet is an avid veterinary journal reader, 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 (all at the same time) were really necessary … and only if expensive adverse reactions didn’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 than 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 that 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. Other vets have switched to vaccinating every three years — which is still a misunderstanding of current guidelines recommending vaccinating “no more often” than every three years. 

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

What Experts Say About Combination Shots

Veterinarian Dr. Patricia Jordan, author of Mark of the Beast, writes about one manufacturer’s combo shot:

“… the absolutely worst adverse vaccine reactions have been noted with … the “mumbo jumbo” polyvalent with several modified live viruses, killed whole bacterins of leptospirosis, killed coronavirus (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 JM 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 Ph.D. DACVIM wrote in DVM360 online 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 this about combo shots …

“… 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 not a rabies vaccination) within 3 weeks of a combo vaccine. This also means no Bordetella given nasally. Giving a rabies vaccine and Bordetella as well as a combo could mean as many as 9 shots in one day. Some dogs don’t survive this.

If your dog has a reaction to the combo shot, there’s no way to determine which antigen caused the reaction. It’s like trying to figure out which ingredient is causing an allergic reaction to kibble. It can’t be done. But you need to know, so you can avoid it in the future. 

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

RELATED: Research shows most vaccines provide lifetime immunity … 

What’s In These Combination Shots?

The components 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 canine parvovirus or canine distemper virus … but if you’re concerned, you can ask for a titer test to show immunity.

H stands for canine hepatitis, a disease virtually nonexistent in North America. Sometimes this is expressed as A2, or adenovirus 2, which gives cros-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. The leptospirosis vaccine often doesn’t even protect against the specific disease strains in your area. 

RELATED: Learn what Dr Patricia Jordan says about the lepto vaccine … 

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 influenza.

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.

RELATED: Find out which vaccines your dog really needs … 

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 … you should change vets (and tell her why). You should also 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.

RELATED: Read more about informed consent and why it matters …

Alternatives To Combination 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 positive, don’t revaccinate. Forgo lepto, coronavirus, hepatitis, Lyme, Bordetella (aka kennel cough) 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 giving puppy shots, or vaccinating a young dog with low 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 used to prevent contamination in multi-dose vials. 
  4. If your vet won’t order monovalent shots (protesting that her distributor doesn’t carry them), buy 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 saving your dog from potential adverse reactions … and the vet can use the extras to help another savvy dog owner avoid combo shots. 
  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.
  6. Find a homeopathic vet and ask them how nosodes can protect your dog. 

I asked holistic vet and homeopath Tamara Hebbler CiHom DVM 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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