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Do Your Homework Before Shopping for a Reindeer

Posted: Dec. 21, 2012, 4:00 p.m. EST


By Dr. Patrick Kelly, DVM

Christmas is almost upon us and children have by now finished their Christmas wish lists. I thought it would be appropriate to give parents some guidelines as to how to choose the perfect Christmas reindeer.

Selecting the right family reindeer can be a daunting task. There are so many sources of poor-quality reindeer that one must do his or her homework to prevent ending up with a dud reindeer.

Most sources of reindeer do not allow exchanges or returns after Christmas. Children become attached quickly, and exchanging a misfit reindeer will become harder, even if the reindeer source will allow it.

 Patrick Kelly
Dr. Kelly’s areas of interest are small animal and wildlife medicine and surgery. He treats an occasional reindeer.
Find a Reputable Breeder
The absolute best source would be from Kris Kringle himself. He has been doing this for generations, and his breeding stock is unmatched in quality and temperament. Mr. Kringle’s reindeer command a higher price, but his reindeer are of the highest quality and temperament, and they can fly. The ability to fly is something seen only in the reindeer raised by Mr. Kringle.

Most reindeer cannot fly, but this does not detract from their pet qualities. I would definitely stay away from Craigslist or eBay reindeer. These tend to be older reindeer with pre-existing problems. Humane societies and animal shelters tend to suspend reindeer adoptions during the holiday season so people don’t adopt them for the wrong reasons.

Is it Healthy?
Demand a current health certificate from a veterinarian experienced in reindeer medicine. A good source of names is the American Veterinary Medical Association directory.

Descendents of one of Mr. Kringle's most popular reindeer, Rudolph, are the most expensive. The fluorescent, glowing nose is a recessive trait that is seen only every couple of generations. It is also a sex-linked trait, so only the males have the shiny red nose. The ability to speak is pure fantasy, folks, so don’t be disappointed if your reindeer cannot speak.

Keep it Outside
I do not recommend reindeer as house pets as they can be very difficult to house train. The tropical Florida climate is not ideal for reindeer, but one can look for the subspecies Reindeerensis floridensis, which have adapted well to the state’s warm climate.

 Reindeer
Feeding candy or table scraps to reindeer may cause diabetes.
Credit: Altrendo Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock
Feed it Properly
Reindeer do well with pelleted deer feed and good forage. It may be difficult to find deer feed, but most local feed stores can special order it for you. Do not give candy or table scraps, as this can lead to diabetes. There is nothing worse than giving twice-a-day insulin shots to a reindeer. Been there, done that. It’s not fun.

I hope this helps you enjoy your Christmas reindeer. Merry Christmas to all and a happy new year!

Dr. Kelly owns Kelly’s Animal Hospital in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

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