As equine vets, we are familiar with treating competing horses that must be free from performance enhancing drugs. Understanding detection times is an inherent part of the job as well as warning owners and trainers about cross-contamination of feed bowls. But how often do we think about ourselves as the source of contamination of forensic blood samples?
As an equine veterinary surgeon, it is easy for us to end up with traces of medication on our hands. Multiuse vials can drip back on our fingers as injectable drugs are drawn up and local anaesthetic can easily contaminate our fingers during nerve-blocking if the needle detaches under pressure. How much of the equipment we handle may have small traces of drugs?
Do you always wash your hands afterwards or do you just wipe it off? There is the potential for drugs on our hands to contaminate a horse when it is examined, even hours later. This risk is probably greatest during pre-purchase examination when our hands are likely to have contact with the oral mucosa (during examination of the teeth) and at the end of the examination a forensic blood sample is taken.
We should all be aware of washing our hands and equipment thoroughly if handling horses that may be subject to forensic blood sampling, particularly if we have direct contact with mucous membranes. If we know our hands have been contaminated recently it is a sensible precaution to wear gloves.
Malcolm Morley, BEVA Council
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