Can dogs adjust to a new climate?

Yes, they can! For the most part, dogs are highly adaptable just like humans, and can call anywhere home. However, a big change in the climate will take some getting used to. While its best to move during the mildest time of the year, such as spring and fall, you may need to start life in your new home during an extreme weather season.

On average, it can take 7 to 60 days for a dog to acclimate to their new climate that’s a higher or lower temperature then their previous one. But a lot of things can factor into this equation. A dog’s overall health, their body shape and size, and coat thickness can greatly influence how they adjust to new weather conditions. A double-coated Husky is pawfectly suited for extreme cold weather, but they may overheat in hot temperatures, while a Chihuahua just doesn’t produce enough body heat during a cold winter to keep itself warm.

Dogs can experience a lot of physical discomforts when undergoing a climatic change, and they can also have emotional changes due to the weather on top of the stress of moving. Making sure you understand those changes, and how to help your dog adapt to them is crucial for their health and mental well-being. 


What could be different in your new climate?

Whether you are moving north, south, east or west, there’s always new things to discover and get acclimated to. Let’s break it down to see what considerations you’ll need to keep in mind for your pupster.

Moving to a colder climate


  • Cold weather that dips below 45 degrees F can be dangerous for many dogs.
  • Dogs can experience hypothermia when their body drops below 99 degrees F. Any dog can exhibit signs of the condition in cold temperatures, including shaking, lethargy, weakness, slowed heart rate and breathing, and even coma or death.
  • Short-haired dogs, small and toy dogs, and dogs who have very short legs are particularly susceptible to cold weather and hypothermia.
  • Even dogs with thick coats who have lived in warm areas may be at risk, as their undercoats grow in response to weather changes. It may take some time, perhaps an entire season or two, for their winter coats to grow in properly.
  • All dogs can get frostbite on their paws, ears, nose, tail and undercarriage from exposure to the cold. Mild cases of frostbite can result in blistered or swelled skin, while serious cases can cause tissue death and loss in affected areas.
  • Elderly, sick, injured, obese, underweight or dehydrated dogs, as well as puppies, can be more severely affected by colder weather.
  • Cold weather suppresses the immune system, which means dogs can more easily fall victim to viral and bacterial diseases.


Moving to a warmer climate


  • Hot weather that rises above 85 degrees F can be dangerous for many dogs.
  • Dogs can experience heat stress which can lead to heat stroke, when a dog’s bodily temperature rises above 105 degrees F. Hyperthermia can cause extreme organ stress, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, weakness, nose bleeds, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, collapse and death.
  • Short-nosed breeds, such as Pugs, are more at risk of heat stroke due to their inability to pant efficiently.
  • Small, toy and short-legged dogs are also less able to tolerate extreme heat.
  • Dogs with thick coats can become overheated very easily and may need a season to lose their undercoat.
  • Puppies, older dogs, dehydrated dogs, debilitated dogs or those with a heart condition are at a higher risk of heat-related issues.
  • Dogs without access to shade can develop heat stroke quicker.
  • High humidity levels can make hot weather more dangerous for dogs.
  • Dogs spending time outside may be susceptible to sunburns, or even burns from hot sidewalks and roads. Areas most at risk are ears, nose and paws, though white or light-colored dogs can burn the skin under their fur.
  • Warmer conditions may mean a longer flea and tick season. Ticks can infect your dog with diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis.


Other considerations

Depending on the local dangers, you may also need to contend with:


  • Bacteria, algae, protozoa and parasites lurking in the groundwater that can infect your pooch, including Leptospirosis, Giardia, Pythiosis, and Protothecosis. 
  • Local parasite populations, including hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, lice and various mites.
  • Local predators, including birds of prey, bears, coyotes, wolves or mountain lions. 

Tips to help your dog adapt to a new climate,

Now that we’ve scared you, know that there’s a lot to love in any climate, regardless of the dangers. With some simple precautions, you can ensure your dog can explore to their heart’s content while staying safe and healthy in your new home!

Here are some pawsome tips to help your dog adapt to their new climate:

  • Bundle your dog up in colder climates, especially if they are small, have short-legs or are sporting a short coat. Dog sweaters, jackets, scarves and blankets can help keep them warm.
  • In colder temps, let your dog explore the snow! Afterwards, dry them off and allow them access to a heat source. After all, it’s fun to snuggle up with your pup, perhaps with a warm bowl of “dog hot chocolate”.
  • Refrain from trimming or shaving your dog during extreme cold temperatures to allow their natural coat to help keep them warm.
  • If it's too cold or blisteringly hot for outdoor walks or play, opt for indoor games or a new toy to help your dog stay calm and entertained.
  • Keep walks short at first to allow your dog to slowly get used to their new hot or cold climate. Gradually, add time to each walk as they acclimate. In cold temps, take walks at in the daytime, or at night in hot temperatures when its cooler.
  • Keep paws safe from harm in extreme hot or cold weather by using paw wax or dog boots.
  • Be sure dogs always have access to clean, drinking water in both hot and cold climates.
  • Always provide shaded areas and dog-safe sunscreen to help prevent heatstroke and sunburn in hot temperatures.
  • Brush your dog's coat regularly, especially if they are in a hot weather zone. This helps to remove hair and thin out the coat to help keep them cooler.
  • Know the symptoms of heat stroke, hypothermia and frostbite, and find out how to help your dog if they show symptoms of these conditions.
  • Keep giving your dog their flea, tick and heartworm medications, even if the temperature dips below freezing.
  • Protect your dog from diseases by keeping them fully vaccinated throughout the year. Find out what vaccinations are available for local hazards, such as for Lyme disease. Check out this site to see what’s in your area.
  • Be sure your dog can easily find their way home if they get lost by updating their ID tag and microchip to your new address.

Moving brings a lot of new things, but don’t let a preventable emergency in your dog be one of them. Chat with a vet today to find out how to protect your best friend in your new climate.