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. Dr. Teller was accompanied by a certified veterinary technician who assisted with the reindeer examinations.
“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. Teller. “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.”
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. Teller 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. Teller recommends leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.
Dr. Teller’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. Teller 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 the 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. Teller’s role as North Pole Veterinarian, including answers to kids’ questions about reindeer, visit avma.org/Santa.
For more information about the role veterinarians play in global health, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Teller, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA media relations manager, at 847-732-6194 (cell/text) or msanfilippoavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).