Santa’s veterinarian gives reindeer green light for Christmas flight


Children around the world received some good news today, with officials from the North Pole confirming that Santa’s reindeer have been approved for their Christmas Eve flight, following a health checkup from Santa’s veterinarian.

avma reindeer santa holiday e.l.v.e.s elves

Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 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.

“After a full examination and review of their medical records, I’m pleased to say that Santa’s reindeer are healthy, in great shape and ready to fly on Christmas Eve,” Dr. Howe 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 affect their ability to fly or make other animals sick.

“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. Howe. “At the same time, making sure they’re healthy also means that they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that long global flight.”

North Pole Certificate of Animal Export

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. Howe 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. Howe recommended leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.avma santa reindeer veterinarian elves e.l.v.e.s

Dr. Howe’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. Howe is definitely on the ‘nice list’ again this year.”

Veterinarians: Become one of Santa’s E.L.V.E.S.

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.

For more information on Dr. Howe’s role as North Pole Veterinarian, including answers to kids’ questions about reindeer, visit

View a short video of Dr. Howe reading the poem “‘Twas a Month Before Christmas,” which explains the important role the AVMA president plays in ensuring healthy reindeer every holiday season.


‘Twas a Month Before Christmas

‘Twas a month before Christmas, and at the North Pole
The AVMA president was about to play a most critical role.

For without healthy reindeer to pull Santa’s sleigh
There’d be no presents waiting to be opened Christmas Day.

So snapping on boots, and donning a cap
Our president traveled north to a spot not found on the map

Where elves tend to reindeer in fields at play,
Brushing their fur and delivering hay.

But as Christmas approaches and travel draws near
Someone must come to examine the deer

And ensure that they’re healthy enough for their flight,
Pulling nonstop with all of their might.

And as president of the AVMA,
This veterinarian has been given final medical say

To examine their fur, looking for mites
Or other critters that can cause painful bites.

With stethoscope listening for their hearts beating strong,
Or signs of arrhythmia, or anything wrong.

While flying is easy for deer’s legs and hooves,
It’s stressful to take off and land on so many roofs.

Hooves should be clean and free of debris
That may cause the deer to fly tenderly.

While we want to help Santa spread presents and cheer,
We don’t want disease hitching a ride on the deer.

Tests will confirm there’s no brucellosis
Or chronic wasting disease, or tuberculosis.

Countries across the world need proof
That the deer won’t leave deadly bugs on the roof.

So Santa’s veterinarian fills out all the paperwork needed
To ensure the deer can cross borders unimpeded.

With certificates signed, the doctor tells St. Nick
That none of his deer are injured or sick.

From the veterinarians who work day and night,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a safe flight.



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