The reindeer’s annual exam includes a health check about a month before their Christmas Eve flight to make sure they’re healthy and not showing any signs of disease—such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, or chronic wasting disease—that can affect their ability to fly, or threaten the health of other animals or people.
“While this may be an out-of-the-ordinary visit, ensuring that these magical and magnificent animals are fit for their important journey reflects the vital work veterinarians and their teams perform every day around the world to ensure the health and safety of animals and people,” Dr. Carlson said.
“It’s such an honor to be part of this special tradition,” Selke said. “Examining the reindeer, from their iconic antlers down to their cloven hooves, is a reminder of the diverse and fascinating work that veterinary health care teams are called on to provide.”
During their visit, Dr. Carlson and Selke conducted a series of comprehensive health checks. They closely inspected the reindeer’s fur for any signs of parasites or lesions and examined their eyes and noses, emphasizing the importance of these exams in maintaining animal health. “It’s fascinating how reindeer have adapted to the harsh North Pole climate, from their hollow fur, which allows them to trap and retain heat, to the mass of tiny veins in their noses that help circulate blood to keep them warm—and in some deer, give their noses a red glow,” noted Dr. Carlson.
The examination also included a thorough assessment of the reindeer’s legs and hooves, crucial for their extensive journey. “Reindeer are incredible travelers, and ensuring their legs and hooves are healthy is vital to make sure they’re up for the big flight ahead,” Selke said.
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 pose no threat to animal or public health.
Dr. Carlson and Selke will make a follow-up trip to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to provide a final pre-flight checkup and to inspect the reindeer upon their return on Christmas morning.
For kids who want to help the reindeer on their journey, Dr. Carlson recommends leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.
Dr. Carlson’s and Selke’s work is consistent with the role veterinary healthcare teams play every day to ensure the health of animals, people, and the environment across the globe. Far from treating just dogs and cats, veterinary healthcare teams work with all kinds of species, in all types of environments, to make the world a healthier place for all forms of life.
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. Dr. Carlson and Ashli are definitely on the ‘nice list’ again this year.
“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa added.
Become one of Santa’s E.L.V.E.S.
While only one veterinarian and veterinary technician can serve on the official veterinary team of the North Pole, every veterinary office 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 and their teams 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 and their support teams can help keep all animals healthy—even reindeer.