Owning a Dog in Korea {Part 2} Health Check Ups & Vaccinations

Owning A Dog In Korea Health Check Ups Vaccinations

This is a follow on post from Part 1 in this series Owning A Dog in Korea.

In Part 1 I talked about all the things you need to have to make sure you and your pup are happy. Nothing in the guide is compulsory by any means, but rather is is written from my experience. Keeping a dog in an apartment here in South Korea is hard, and so that blog post is filled with ideas of items you may want to buy, as well as links to places you can get hold of them. Things like where to buy collars, harnesses, crates & toys for larger dogs. I hope you find it helpful!

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We have had our rescue pup, Shadow, for just over 6 months (click here to read more about how he came into our lives) and had no idea what needed to be done in terms of health check ups. This post will hopefully provide you with enough information about what your pup needs to be healthy and happy.

The first thing you need to do with your new pup/dog is to take him to the vet to have a thorough health check. This basic check up will determine whether your dog has any diseases. Depending on whether your pup had a previous owner, you may or may not need to have vaccinations. We rescued Shadow from the side of the road when he was tiny, and so he needed to have every test done as well as all his vaccinations.  You also need to ask your vet to check for Heartworm which is a very nasty disease very prevalent here in Korea.

If you have rescued a puppy you need to be very mindful of Parvo virus which is incredibly contagious and deadly to young dogs. Parvo is spread through the feces and vomit of infected dogs and puppies. This virus can live in feces for about two weeks and can survive in the environment (areas on floors and cages) for many months. This survival rate allows it to be passed along by hands, clothing or shoes of anyone who comes in contact with it. We were warned by many dog owners not to let our puppy go outside until he had had all his shots, but this just wasn't practical for us. When we go home to South Africa, Shadow will be an outside dog and so we needed to toilet train him outdoors. I know many people here in Korea who use pee pads, and it works for them but is a personal and situational preference (if you live on the 20th floor of a sky rise building, it might not be practical to take out a young puppy every 3 hours). Getting up at all hours in the freezing cold to go outside was hard, but it was something we decided and have just put up with. 


What to Do if your dog Tests Positive for Heartworm

I don't have any experience with treating heart worm and so I asked the local dog owning community here in Korea for some advice. I just want to say thank you to each of these ladies for taking the time to respond to me and offer help and advice to dog owners who may have to go through heartworm treatment.

"Finding out your new foster or adopted pup has heartworm is awful. This happened to me in January 2013. All dogs in Korea need to be given monthly heartworm preventatives as heartworm is rampant in Korea.
At first the vet will just do a quick blood test to determine if your dog is heartworm positive or negative. If it is positive, the most important thing is that you ACT QUICKLY!
You do not have time to save up for a month or so! Find a vet that will do a payment plan if money is an issue. Heartworm is more difficult to treat the longer it progresses. There are 4 stages of heartworm - you will find out which stage your dog is by having scans done. If it's stage 1 or 2 - it's treatable. Stage 3 and 4 treatment options are not as successful and will depend on your dogs health.
I have experience with treating stage 2 heart worm. My dog was given two rounds of injections 24 hours apart. After the first injection, she cried for a solid 8 hours. It was agonising to watch. The second one was a little better but still awful.
The dog must be kept calm during the few weeks following treatment - their heart rate needs to stay steady.
About 4 months later we retested my dog and she tested negative! We were really lucky! I have heard it can take up to 9 months for a negative test result. Or worse, the treatment may need to be repeated" Julie

"Our dog, Sue, had to have 2 rounds of Immiticide before she tested negative for HW. For Close to 4 weeks each time, she had to be quite still and not have too many walks.  She was a bit lethargic and tired after the injections. Each round of treatment was 400,000won.  I did not check around as I wanted her to have the treatment right away.  My vet also kept her over night on an IV to give her fluids and monitor her.

She was rescued from a shelter, nearly dead, from malnutrition and she had just given birth. The initial injection causes them to be in quite a bit of pain and sometimes they writhe around on the floor and you feel completely helpless as you watch.  they don't understand what is causing the pain and you can't help them at all. It is usually 1 injection and then you wait for the medicine, which is essentially poison to kill the worms near the heart and hope it does not kill the dog in the process.  We had to get Sue to a good weight and moderate healthy before she could even have the injection. One round just did not kill all the worms and we had to go back and do it again" Erin


"From my experience, once my dog tested positive, we did blood test to find out if he had any worm eggs in his blood. My vet also did an ultrasound of the heart and he was able to see the condition of his heart and adult worms in his heart.
Next, he staged his heartworm given his symptoms. This is an indication of how advanced the heartworm is. It goes from Stage 1 through 4 (1 being the mildest and 4 being the most serious).
It is important that dogs are at a normal weight and try to maintain their weight during the treatment. My dog was underweight. So, we had to wait some time for him to gain weight before starting actual heartworm shots. Being arsenic based, these shots take a lot from a dog’s body.
While we were waiting for him to gain weight, he was on antibiotics (2 rounds). My vet also put him on puppy food for a month as puppy food is higher in protein and calories to help with his weight gain. He had poor appetite, which is one of the symptoms of heartworm disease. I bought him My Beau nutritional supplement, salmon oil for dogs and some wet food to mix in his dry food alternatively to encourage him to eat more. I also offered him a hard-boiled egg once or twice a day.

I tried to offer 3 or 4 mini meals when I was around over the weekends to help with his weight gain. I weighed him every other day so that I could see my progress.
We gave him pills with Greenies pill pockets as he didn’t want to swallow them otherwise. I have heard people mix them with a bit of jam/peanut butter/bread as well.
Some of the other symptoms of heartworm disease include: cough, shortness of breath, labored breathing, lethargy, swollen/distended abdomen, and edema of the legs.
Once heartworm shots are initiated, the most important thing is to restrict exercise. Dogs should only be brought out for the toilet and always on a leash. We have to restrict things which increase heart rate such as running, jumping, playing ball, climbing steps/stairs/hills, barking a lot and mating.

Also, it is important that the day dogs get an injection not to rub/massage the area even if they may be in pain. It is very important to do everything possible to keep them calm" Dee Dee


As heartworm is such a problem here in Korea, Vets advise giving dogs heartworm preventatives. These are given once a month and come in tablet form. You can take your dog in once or month to your vet or buy a couple of months supply to give your dog at home. The tablets aren't that expensive and most definitely worth doing. 



Here in South Korea vets give dogs the following vaccinations:

  •  DHLLP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Papainfluenza & Leptospirosis (x5 shots)
  •  Corona Virus (x2 shots) 
  • Kennel Cough (x2 shots)
  • It's also a good idea to get the rabies vaccination done too.

Some people feel very strongly about not over vaccinating their dogs, and lots of websites suggest having a Titer Test (anti body test) after about the 3rd or 4th round of DHLLP. I trusted my vet, and as Shadow is a larger breed than most dogs here in Korea I took my Vet's advice to have all 5 rounds of DHLLP.

Vets usually administer 2 shots together, 2 - 4 weeks apart. In my case Shadow had the following:

  • Round 1: DHLLP & Corona
  • Round 2: DHLLP & Corona
  • Round 3: DHLLP & Kennel Cough
  • Round 4: DHLLP & Kennel Cough
  • Round 5: DHLLP & Rabies

Each visit to the vet cost W22 000 (I do live in a small town so I think the prices are slightly less than in bigger cities). The rabies shot was a little more and was more painful for him than the others.

After the initial vaccinations, you are advised to take your dog in for yearly booster shots.

All of the above is very important to bear in mind before you get a dog. There are so many abandoned pups on the streets here in Korea, but before you just pick them up make sure you know what you're getting into financially.

A few numbers to chew on:

Heart worm treatment: +-W400 000 a shot (often times you may need 2 or even 3 rounds) basic Basic Vaccinations: +-W150 000

Neutering: -+W200 000 (male) can be as much as W400 000 for a female

Spaying: +-W400 000

And thats before the food and toys and bedding and treats. And of course the final cost of transporting your pet home.

Even with all of the above, we can't imagine our lives without Shadow. He has brought so much joy to our lives and we don't regret picking him up off the streets one bit.


Do you have anything you want to add, or is there something I've left off here? Please drop me a comment below or email me and I will update this post. Thank you!