Dear Vet's Pets:
My kids are big fans, and they have a question. Can all reindeer fly?The Vet's Pets Respond
: Only Santa's reindeer can fly. However, even ordinary reindeer have characteristics that make them special.
Also known as caribou, reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light. This makes it easy for them to find lichen to eat and to spot a predator's fur and urine.
Moreover, while only the males of most deer species grow antlers, both male and female reindeer sport the fancy headgear. In fact, reindeer antlers are larger and heavier than other deer species' antlers.
Mature males shed their antlers in November and early December, while females and young males drop their antlers during the spring. Christmas paintings depict reindeer with antlers, which suggests that Santa's sleigh is pulled by females and young males.
Before Santa's reindeer fly around the world, they are examined by a veterinarian who confirms they are healthy, their vaccinations are current and they haven't been exposed to contagious diseases. Santa wouldn't want his reindeer to spread illness around the world.
The examining veterinarian then fills out an official health certificate for each reindeer.
A similar health certificate is required for any animal, including a dog or cat, that travels from one country to another or even from one state to another. So, if you plan to travel with your pets this holiday season, ask your veterinarian to examine them and issue health certificates.
To track the journey of Santa's reindeer on Christmas Eve, visit noradsanta.org
°°°Dear Daisy Dog:
Our adult daughter recently adopted a puppy named Jasper. We've never had a dog, so we need some holiday gift shopping advice. Can you suggest a few creative Christmas presents for our first "granddog"?Daisy Responds:
Start with healthy food treats. You can make your own (see dog biscuit recipes at askthevetspets.com/d2007-49.asp
) or buy treats that help minimize dental tartar and plaque (see vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Dogs.pdf
for a list.)
Wrap up a gift certificate for group dog obedience training classes. They will help Jasper learn to walk quietly on a leash, come when called, lie down and get along with other dogs and people. Choose an organization that uses treats, praise and other positive-reinforcement methods, as these are more effective than aversive training techniques, which sometimes trigger aggression.
Consider a gift certificate to a nearby doggy day care center, a present Jasper will love. Your daughter will appreciate it, too, especially when she needs to work late.
Every dog should be microchipped to help reunite him with his family if he's ever lost. If Jasper hasn't been chipped yet, call his animal hospital and pre-pay for the chip.
Finally, you can give Jasper a gift certificate to see his veterinarian, a practical gift since puppies, like children, need to see their doctors often.
Jasper is fortunate to have "grandparents" who celebrate his arrival in the family.Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.