Infection Control in Veterinary Practice - Guidelines and Best Procedures


Veterinarian disinfecting surfaces and cleaning hands as part of procedures related to infection control in veterinary practice.

Just like hospitals for human patients, veterinary practices are at greater risk of infections than other premises. Animals are at risk of hospital-acquired infections just like people. A variety of sick and immunocompromised animals in one location makes an infectious outbreak more likely to occur. However, there are procedures that veterinary staff can follow to reduce the risks to both animals and people at the clinic.

What Are the Infectious Disease Risks at Veterinary Practices?

When it comes to infectious diseases, veterinary clinics are one of the most hazardous workplaces and, ironically, one of the most hazardous locations to take your pet. There can be a number of harmful viruses and bacteria in the clinic at any given time that could be harmful to humans and pets.

Risks to Veterinary Staff

Veterinary staff are at greater risk of acquiring infectious diseases compared to most other workplaces. Zoonotic pathogens can pass from animal to human, which can cause serious illnesses. These include:   

  • Psittacosis (carried by birds in the parrot family).

  • Trichinosis (roundworm).

  • Cat Scratch Disease (bacterial infection spread by cats).

  • Histoplasmosis (from bird droppings).

Some diseases can be avoided through vaccination, such as rabies, but others have no vaccine to protect workers or the general community who may come into contact with an infected animal.

Risks to Patients

The patients (or animals) are also at risk when they attend a vet clinic. Like humans, there are hospital-acquired infections that may cause them needing more treatment and a longer stay in the clinic. Nosocomial infections (NIs) are characterised by a high incidence of antimicrobial resistance. The most common infections include:

  • Urinary tract infections.

  • Pneumonia.

  • Bloodstream infections.

  • Surgical site infections.

  • Infectious diarrhoea.     

Most of these infections are caused by surgical procedures, but even pets brought into a centre for non-invasive treatments are at risk of infections. For example, a puppy who is not yet vaccinated against parvovirus can be infected at the vet. Before a puppy arrives, the floor and examination table should be disinfected in case other patients are infected.

Animals that are being treated for a chronic health condition or are in their senior years are more susceptible than others to being infected at the vet.

Cleaning Procedures at Veterinary Practices

Just like hospitals, veterinary clinics need to be cleaned thoroughly to stop the threat of infection passing from patient to patient and potentially to staff. However, a clean premise isn’t enough to stop infections - it must be adequately disinfected in order to kill any virus or bacteria before it causes an infection or outbreak.

All veterinary clinics can benefit from an infection control plan which outlines best practice, including:

Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene has been found to be the most important factor in reducing the risk of nosocomial infections in human hospitals as bacteria can move between patients on the hands (and equipment) of staff as they treat patients. The same applies to a veterinary practice - washing hands and equipment before the next patient reduces the risk of spreading infection from one animal to the next.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment

If an animal is suspected of being infectious, treating staff should take precaution and use appropriate personal protective equipment (or PPE). Masks, gloves and aprons, shoe covers and any other PPE that can be discarded after treating an animal ensures infectious particles don’t sit on the skin or clothes that may infect the next patient or themselves.

Patient Management

Patient management involves assessing risks of pathogen transmission, identification of animals either suspected of or proved to be infected with a transmissible infectious disease. Clinics must implement measures that minimise the risk of transmission of the infectious agent. Veterinary staff are obligated to protect other animals and humans from infection.

Cleaning and Disinfection 

In veterinary practices, animals rotate through the same areas such as the waiting room, treatment rooms, examination and operating tables. It’s important that these areas are disinfected throughout the day, particularly before and after high risk procedures to protect other animals and their owners from disease. 

A hospital grade disinfectant like Chlor-Clean can be used efficiently between patients so it’s ideal for busy veterinary clinics. Chlor-Clean is supplied in a stable tablet form which is dissolved in one litre of water to ensure correct dilution. The 2-in-1 cleaner and disinfectant cuts cleaning time in half, as there is no need to use a detergent on the surface first. Wait for it to dry before applying the disinfectant. One application of Chlor-Clean will disinfect any hard surface.

If you would like more information about how Chlor-Clean can prevent infections at your veterinary practice, call 1300 29 32 32 or contact us online.