SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — The president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently returned 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.
“The deer are in great shape, they’re healthy, and they’re ready to fly,” said Dr. Doug Aspros, upon his 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, Aspros is charged with providing the yearly health exam for Santa’s reindeer.
The reindeer’s 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.
“It’s important that they don’t have any diseases they could give to other animals during their trip around the world,” said Dr. Aspros. “They also need to be healthy, so they’re less likely to catch any diseases themselves on that long flight.”
Once he determined the reindeer were healthy, Aspros filled out the official “North Pole Certificate of Animal Export” that provides Santa with the documents he and his reindeer need to travel.
Aspros 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. He’ll also perform a nose-check on Rudolph to make sure it’s good to glow.
During the flight, Aspros 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.
Aspros’ next trip to the North Pole will come in the spring, when he and AVMA President-Elect Dr. Clark Fobian 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. Aspros recommended leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.
Aspros’ 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.