AVMA president clears Santa’s reindeer for Christmas flight

Schaumburg, IL— The president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) returned this week from a health check-up at the North Pole, declaring Santa’s reindeer to be healthy, free of disease, and ready for their Christmas Eve flight.

“I can assure you that all of them are in healthy condition and are all ready to go for Christmas Eve,” said Dr. René Carlson, upon her return to the United States.

In addition to supervising all of the business affairs of the association, the AVMA president serves as the official veterinarian of the North Pole. In this role, Dr. Carlson is charged with providing the yearly health exam for Santa’s reindeer.

The reindeers’ annual exam includes ensuring a health check about a month prior to 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 be transmitted to other animals.

View photos of Dr. Carlson performing this year’s health exam

“It’s important that they don’t have any diseases they could give to other animals during their trip around the world,” said Dr. Carlson. “They also need to be healthy, so they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that long flight.”

Once she determined the reindeer were healthy, Dr. Carlson filled out the official “North Pole Certificate of Animal Export” that provides Santa with the documents he and his reindeer need to travel.

Dr. Carlson will make a follow-up trip to the North Pole prior to Christmas to make sure the reindeers’ feet and legs are in good shape to take off and land on the rooftops and that they’re still ready for the flight. She’ll also perform a nose-check on Rudolph to make sure it’s good to glow.

During the flight, Dr. Carlson will be on call in case any emergencies arise. When they return to the North Pole, the reindeer will get one final exam to make sure they didn’t injure themselves or get dehydrated on their voyage.

Dr. Carlson’s next trip to the North Pole will come in the spring, when she and AVMA President-Elect Dr. Doug Aspros will provide the reindeer with their annual vaccines and perform any blood tests or other procedures that are necessary.

For kids who want to help the reindeer on their journey, Dr. Carlson recommended leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.

Dr. Carlson’s role as official veterinarian of the North Pole is similar to many veterinarians around the world who work with livestock and other animals that travel across borders and around the world (even if they do so in a less flashy way than Santa’s reindeer). Veterinarians play an integral role in insuring all of the world’s animals are healthy, free of disease, and pose no risk when traveling.

View a short video from Dr. Carlson’s North Pole visit

For more information on the AVMA president’s role as North Pole Veterinarian, including Dr. Carlson’s answers to kids’ questions about reindeer, view AVMA’s “Reindeer landing” page.For more information about the role veterinarians play in global health, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Carlson about her role as North Pole Veterinarian, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA media relations assistant, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell), or msanfilippo@avma.org. For more information about the AVMA, visit www.avma.org.


The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 81,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. For more information, visit www.avma.org.


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