Santa’s official veterinarian OKs reindeer for flight

Douglas Kratt, DVM, seeks a team of volunteer veterinarians to oversee the well-being of Santa’s holiday helpers on Christmas Eve

Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have been cleared for travel by the American Veterinary Medical Association.Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have been cleared for travel by the North Pole’s veterinarian.

Douglas Kratt, DVM, Santa’s personal animal caregiver and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), visited the North Pole earlier this month to give the reindeer a preflight health check, ensure they were up to date on their vaccinations, and make sure they have the required certificates allowing them to travel across state and national borders.

“After a full examination and review of their medical records, I’m pleased to say Santa’s reindeer are healthy and in great shape and ready to fly on Christmas Eve,” Dr. Kratt says. “COVID may have disrupted our lives and led to the cancellation of a lot of our plans, but it won’t stop Santa and his reindeer from delivering your presents this year—assuming you’ve been good.”

Additionally, AVMA notes, Kratt and Santa both tested negative for COVID prior to and after the visit.

While pandemic measures made travel to the North Pole difficult for much of the year, Kratt’s existing veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with Santa and his reindeer allowed him to monitor the animals’ health from a distance via telemedicine, the association says.

More than 30 percent of veterinarians used telemedicine to provide supportive care for their patients in the past year, compared to approximately 10 percent prior to the pandemic, AVMA reports.

AVMA president Douglas Kratt, DVM, used telemedicine to monitor the health of Santa’s reindeer throughout the year.

Of course, some veterinary services—including the annual North Pole checkup—need to be conducted in person. The exam, which typically happens within 30 days of flight, includes a health check to ensure the team is not showing any signs of disease, such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, or chronic wasting disease, which might affect their ability to fly or make other animals sick.

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

Santa, who was unavailable for comment, issued a statement, saying the health and well-being of his reindeer is essential to the success of his busiest night of the year.

“Without my reindeer, there simply would be no Christmas,” he said. “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. Kratt is definitely on the ‘nice list’ again this year.”

With just over a week to go until the big day, Kratt is ringing his sleigh bells for volunteers to join the Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System (E.L.V.E.S.), a group whose job is to oversee the well-being of the nine reindeer.

To join, AVMA members can download a badge to let their clients know they are part of Santa’s E.L.V.E.S. support team. To participate, click here.

For more, check out the video below, courtesy AVMA.

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