In addition to his naughty-and-nice list, Santa Claus has procured another important piece of paperwork for the holiday: A clean bill of health for his reindeer from Santa’s veterinarian
Dr. Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and official veterinarian of the North Pole, examined the reindeer earlier this month to perform antler-to-tail evaluations of all nine of Santa’s reindeer, making sure they were all up-to-date on their vaccinations, free of disease and healthy enough to make their annual trek around the globe.
“As Santa’s personal veterinarian I can say with utmost confidence that all of the reindeer are healthy and ready to bring joy to all the children on Christmas Eve,” Topper said.
“While Santa’s reindeer are very special animals in certain ways, they’re also just like regular animals and are susceptible to a lot of different diseases,” Topper said. “Since they travel the world, we don’t want them delivering any illnesses along with the gifts. So I checked each one to see if they were showing any signs of illnesses, and I made sure they were all up to date on their vaccinations.”
In addition to presents for children around the world, Santa is required to bring with him an official “North Pole Certificate of Animal Export” that allows him to freely cross borders and ensure health officials that his reindeer are no threat to animal or public health.
Topper will make a follow-up trip to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to provide a pre-flight checkup and to inspect the reindeer upon their return on Christmas morning. “They’ll be making millions of rooftop landings throughout the night so we want to make sure they haven’t sustained any damage to their legs or hooves,” Topper said.
And because Santa can use all the little helpers he can get, Topper says kids can play a role in ensuring the delivery of presents around the world.
“This is a long flight, and the reindeer are going to need to refuel along the way,” Topper said. “So to help make sure they have enough energy to fly around the world I would recommend, in addition to leaving some milk and cookies for Santa, kids could maybe leave out some carrots or a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, which is their favorite treat. That would make Santa very happy!”
While serving as Santa’s official veterinarian is a unique job, Topper’s work is consistent with the role veterinarians play every day to ensure the health of animals, people and the environment around the globe. Far from just being “dog and cat doctors,” veterinarians work with all kinds of species, in all types of environments, to make the world a healthier place for all forms of life.
While only one veterinarian can be official veterinarian of the North Pole, every veterinarian can help the cause by volunteering to be part of Santa’s emergency veterinary staff on Christmas Eve. AVMA members can download a badge to let their clients know they are part of Santa’s Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System (E.L.V.E.S.) support team. Veterinarians are invited to help spread holiday cheer by displaying their official E.L.V.E.S. badge on their clinics’ social media channels and educating clients on the various ways that veterinarians help keep all animals healthy—even reindeer.
AVMA members can visit the AVMA website to download the official E.L.V.E.S. badge.
While unavailable for comment due to his busy work schedule, Santa issued a statement, saying, “Without my reindeer, there simply would be no Christmas. Proper veterinary care ensures that, year in and year out, my team and I are able to deliver presents to boys and girls around the world. It’s safe to say that Dr. Topper is on the “Nice List” this year.”
For more information on Topper’s role as official veterinarian of the North Pole, including answers to kids’ questions about reindeer, visit avma.org/Santa.