Santa's Reindeer Clear Health Check for International Flight

December 21, 2016
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM, ELS

Dr. Walden received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University. She is a practicing veterinarian and a certified editor in the life sciences (ELS). She owns Walden Medical Writing, LLC, and writes and edits materials for healthcare professionals and the general public.

Dr. Tom Meyer, president of AVMA, clears Santa’s reindeer for travel and reminds the public that veterinary health certificates are needed for animals to travel across state lines or to other countries.

Santa’s reindeer are in good health and ready for their long trip on Christmas Eve, said Dr. Tom Meyer, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in anews release. Meyer has examined Santa’s team and declared the reindeer to be free of disease.

“After thorough examination, I can tell you that Santa’s reindeer are perfectly healthy, in great shape, and ready for their upcoming flight,” said Meyer, an experienced mixed animal practitioner. You can watch Meyer examine the team in a video that features a narrator rhyming brucellosis and tuberculosis.

The AVMA uses the good news about Santa’s reindeer as a reminder that animals need veterinary health certificates to travel across state lines and to other countries. Meyer signed an official North Pole Certificate of Animal Export for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer team, certifying that they are free of diseases that could be transmitted to other animals along the route.

“Animal RDLF-1225 has a glowing red nose but there is no evidence of infection or radioactivity,” reads a note on the certificate.

Meyer also answered children's questions about Santa’s reindeer. Among the questions:

  • What do reindeer eat? (Answer: Hay, reindeer feed, mosses, grass, and lichens. Graham crackers make great Christmas treats.)
  • Why does Rudolph’s nose glow? (Answer: He has a benign condition called nasus roseus.)
  • How do the reindeer stay up all night on Christmas Eve? (Answer: Santa gradually changes their schedules as Christmas approaches. They also get to nap on the rooftops while Santa is delivering presents.)

Meyer is scheduled to give the reindeer a preflight check on Christmas Eve and inspect them again when they return. He will also be on call during the flight in case there are problems, although he reports that this has never happened.

Veterinarians can help Santa with Christmas reindeer emergencies—and educate clients about veterinarians’ roles in exotic animal care, preventive health, and international animal transport—by joining Santa’s Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System (ELVES). The AVMA has provided images of the official ELVES badge for AVMA members to share on social media.

Although Santa was not available for the AVMA to interview, he released the following statement: “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. Meyer is on the ‘Nice List’ this year.”

Pet owners can find more information about international and interstate animal travel requirements on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and AVMA websites.

Dr. Laurie Anne Walden received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from North Carolina State University. After an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Auburn University, she returned to North Carolina, where she has been in small animal primary care practice for over 20 years. Dr. Walden is also a board-certified editor in the life sciences and owner of Walden Medical Writing, LLC. She works as a full-time freelance medical writer and editor and continues to see patients a few days each month.