Weather - Or Not: Moving Your Pet to a New Climate

As we swing into temperate spring, it may be easy to forget that some parts of our world experience a winter freeze and/or a summer swelter.

But these thermal extremes should be at the forefront of our minds as we consider moving to new digs with our pets. This is especially important for those of us living in the subtropics where wild seasonal shifts are the exception, not the rule.

When contemplating a move from San Diego to Minneapolis/St. Paul, for example, we must remember that not all kinds of animal fur protects against the b-r-r-r-r-r. 

Short-haired dogs like a bull-terrier or a Siamese cat are not as insulated from the cold as are the lush-coated Akita or Siberian. Over-exposure to cold can suppress the immune system, making thin-coated pets vulnerable to more viral and bacterial infections. Slipping a sweater or down coat over your not-so-bushy pal and keeping winter walks brief help to stabilize core body temperature.

At the same time, long-haired breeds can be more prone to overheating inside a heated home - or on the streets of Phoenix in August. Prolonged overheating can result in dehydration and, possibly, heatstroke and renal failure. Limiting summer strolls to dawn and twilight times and having plenty of fresh water handy can keep your lovable, shaggy shadow from becoming the “toast” of the town.

Long-haired or short, both cats and dogs have sensitive body parts that are more vulnerable to the elements than we can imagine. When the mercury plunges, exposed areas such as foot pads, the ears and the nose can become chapped, raw or frostbitten. These same areas can be sunburned or scalded in blistering summer heat. Even on “mild” days, street asphalt can reach scorching temperatures in the mid-day sun.

Humidity is another factor. Pets in Miami and pets in Denver face different, but equally-concerning, challenges. Mosquitos and other potentially disease-carrying vectors thrive in humid climates and love to feast on the blood of unsuspecting pets. Also, perspiration does not evaporate as readily in humid regions reducing a pets ability to "cool down." At higher, drier altitudes, certain breeds of cat and dog are more susceptible to flaking and itching which can lead to excessive scratching and skin infection.

Wherever your destination, give your pets time to adapt to the new climate and do so slowly and gently. For thin-coated pets moving to colder climates, some extra calories during the winter months can pack on a small layer of insulating fat (be careful not to overdo this lest your lovable bundle turns into a summer sausage!). For thick-coated pets moving to hot climates, several bowls filled with fresh water kept in strategic places throughout the home will prevent you pal from having to travel too far for refreshment - and much-needed hydration. In any case, keep your pet appropriately groomed.

How your family handles the emotional weather surrounding a move is ultimately far more significant than the weather patterns of your chosen destination. Pulling up stakes and transplanting is a tumultuous process. Fortunately, we humans can talk it out - and through.

Our pets are speaking to us, too. Sometimes they cower and slink and skirt or otherwise display their unease when they taste change in the wind. Our Lilly, the Boston terrier, whines and paces in circles when my wife or I pull the suitcases out of the closet, then rifle though drawers and sort out clothes.

We then do what any responsible parent does: act as casually as possible.

Every child should learn that change can be a welcome thing.