Santa’s Veterinarian Gives Reindeer Green Light for Christmas Flight


 ​Santa’s veterinarian has given the green light to Rudolph’s red nose and the rest of the reindeer that will be traveling the world this Christmas Eve.

Dr. Carlson inspecting a reindeer

Dr. René Carlson, president of the World Veterinary Association and former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, visited the North Pole earlier this month to ensure that Santa’s team of nine were up-to-date on their vaccinations and healthy enough to make their annual trek around the globe (view video from Dr. Carlson’s North Pole trip).

“I can assure you that all of them are in healthy condition and are all ready to go for Christmas Eve,” Dr. Carlson said.

The reindeer’s annual exam includes 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 the 2014 North Pole Certificate of Animal Export.)

“We need to make sure the reindeer aren’t harboring any diseases that they could then potentially spread to animals in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Carlson. “At the same time, making sure they’re healthy also means that they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that long flight.”

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.

Dr. Carlson 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.

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 work is consistent with the role veterinarians play every day to ensure the health of animals, people and the environment across 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 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 is definitely on the ‘nice list’ again this year.”

To view a short video from Dr. Carlson’s North Pole visit, click here. For more information on Dr. Carlson’s role as North Pole Veterinarian, including 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 senior media relations specialist, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell), or

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