The rate of occurrence of needlestick events among female veterinarians was surveyed and the relationship between syringe contents and the nature of any resultant side effects was examined. From the identified target population of 2,997 women graduates of veterinary colleges in the United States, it was possible to contact 2,807 (93.7%). Of these, 2,532 completed the survey, by either mail or phone, for an overall response rate of 90.2%. Of the total responding population, 63.9% reported 2,663 descriptions of needlestick incidents. Substances most often injected included vaccines, antibiotics, anesthetics, and animal blood. Of the 438 sticks resulting in at least one side effect, 337 were classified as mild and localized at the site of injection, with 18 characterized as severe and systemic. One accidental self injection of a prostaglandin compound resulted in a spontaneous abortion. The estimated overall needlestick injury rate for this group of health care professionals was 9.3 sticks per 100 person years of practice, which was similar to the reported rates among health care workers including nurses, laboratory technicians and hospital housekeeping staff. All small animal and mixed practice veterinarians demonstrated the highest rates, with all large animal practitioners demonstrating a rate lower by about 40%.