How to Care for Reindeer

Sarah Beth Cavanah shares what you need to know about how to care for reindeer, including possible medical problems, seeking out a vet and diseases that can afflict reindeer.
By Sarah Beth Cavanah
December 2001/January 2002
Add to My MSN

Content Tools

Related Content

Rambling Rose Ramblings

A beautiful old, old, rambling rose bush that grows on my moms corner fence post greets us with pink...

How Do You Raise Your Flock?

Chickens who begin life as housepets don't take kindly to being banished to the outdoors. What is th...

What Are The Most Important Homesteading Skills You've Learned?

You can't just hit the ground running when you make the transistion from rat race to homestead. Ther...

Learn about about how to care for reindeer to maintain their health.

How to Care for Reindeer

Reindeer are no more susceptible to disease than other domesticated animals, but they do have their own medical quirks. Bob Dieterich, a retired veterinary professor, said anyone who thinks they might be interested in raising reindeer needs to let their intentions be known to their local vet.

Although veterinary programs are covering an increasing number of animals, reindeer generally are not included in the general U.S. curriculum. A source of veterinary information for you and your vet can be obtained from the Reindeer Research Program at the University of Alaska. Dieterich said people who don't have a regular vet should search out one in their area who deals with horses and discuss whether the vet would be willing to learn to treat reindeer.

New buyers of reindeer need to have detailed conversations with the sellers about the particular animals, especially what they've been eating. In their natural environments, reindeer live off lichen and grasses, but should be fed a commercial diet of grain and roughage when moved into captivity. Reindeer are extremely susceptible to changes in diet and should only be fed what they're used to. Buyers should ask that some of the feed be sent with the reindeer when they are transported to their new home.

Brucellosis is a serious bacterial disease found in most Alaskan and Canadian herds. Animals should be tested. Reindeer can also acquire diseases common in other domesticated herds. The best treatment is prevention, and once again, a vet with reindeer knowledge is important. Owners must also be vigilant in watching their reindeer for subtle behavior changes. Reindeer don't show symptoms of sickness until they are very ill, and by then it may be too late to save them.


Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association, Inc.
Raising Reindeer for Profit and Pleasure
Ethel Evans, Corresponding Secretary
Parker, Colorado

Reindeer Research Program
University of Alaska-Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska

Operation Santa Claus
Redmond, Oregon

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.