Written by Megan Chamberlain
13 Nov 2018

Medical Waste Considerations for Vet Clinics

A veterinary clinic treats animals, birds, and reptiles, but not humans (unless your doctor is very strange), so you don’t have to follow the same guidelines in regard to medical waste disposal as a human healthcare facility, do you? You bet you do. While veterinary clinics may have some unique scenarios, they’re not so different when it comes to medical waste considerations as any other care facility.

Veterinarians should be aware of and follow specific guidelines in regard to medical waste disposal, including that of infectious waste, biohazard waste, and anatomical or pathological waste. Who provides these guidelines? Your state plus the federal government. State guidelines are often more rigorous than federal guidelines when it comes to medical waste management, segregation, and disposal. 


Essential medical waste considerations for vet clinics

While this is by no means a complete listing, Daniels Health wants to emphasize that veterinarians and any employee that works in a veterinary clinic should be aware of certain considerations in regard to medical waste.

  • Be aware of definitions regarding to infectious agents and zoonotic agents. For example, a zoonotic agent can be a bacteria, fungus, a virus, or other mediator that can transmit communicable diseases between animals and humans.
  • Know whether or not you are considered a small medical waste generator a large medical waste generator (less than or over 50 pounds) per month. Guidelines for the segregation, treatment, handling, storage, and disposal of medical waste differ for each. This also includes handling and disposal requirements regarding animal carcasses.
  • County, state, and federal guidelines may be applicable to veterinary clinics when it comes to determining the difference between sharps waste, biohazard waste, and regulated medical waste. Depending on state, various agencies are involved in this process. For example, medical waste in California falls under the purview of the California Medical Waste Management Act. Breaking it down even further, San Diego County’s ordinance deems that medical waste that comes from a veterinary practice is generally classified as medical waste, limited to sharps waste, or other waste that has the potential to be contaminated due to “direct contact” with some type of zoonotic disease. Every veterinary clinic should be familiar with specifics regarding medical waste disposal to avoid fines and penalties.
  • Take the time to differentiate between different types of regulated medical waste. That includes sharps, hazardous, solid, liquid, and other waste in regard to veterinary clinics. In most cases, veterinary waste materials include sharps waste, hazardous waste, including chemicals and/or medications used in the treatment of animals, as well as animal waste that not only includes any organ or body part, but any other items such as bedding that has been exposed to potentially contaminated with infectious or noninfectious body fluids.
  • Carefully consider the types of containers that you’re using for medical waste. For example, a sharps container not only protects employees against needlestick injury, but specific requirements regarding placement may be mandated by your county or state. In most cases, guidelines specify that a sharps container be spill-proof, puncture resistant, leak-proof, and reusable.
  • Veterinary clinics, like human hospitals, can face hefty fines for noncompliance. Fines of up to $25,000 per day, per violation are not unheard of. The Department of Natural Resources is a good place to start when it comes to understanding specific regulations and guidelines for disposal of any type of animal waste produced by a veterinary clinic. A few tips always come in handy. For example, properly labeling, containment, and packaging of medical waste. Lastly, proper transportation of medical waste.



Regulations and Guidelines

When researching guidelines or other considerations for vet clinics, take the time to access the for their recommendations regarding waste disposal practices. A number of categories are found in these guidelines such as clinical resources, federal regulations, state regulations, definitions, and AVMA policies. Adopt a “cradle-to-grave” process for concerns.

It’s also important to be aware that numerous agencies at both federal and state levels, are as involved in medical waste from veterinary clinics as they are with medical waste from hospitals or outpatient facilities. A few of these agencies include:

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Department of Transportation
  • Centers for Disease Control


State regulations and guidelines may supersede federal regulations, and are in fact, often more stringent. A number of resources are available to veterinary clinics, veterinarians, and employees in the field. Among them include Veterinary Compliance Assistance, which also contains information regarding state and local agencies and hazardous waste state resources locators.

Familiarity with different waste streams, waste stream management and waste segregation is as essential in animal care practices as it is in human care. Daniels Health is familiar with healthcare waste management, regardless of who or what is being cared for. When it comes to the medical waste business, medical waste disposal, or waste audit practices, we’re here to help.


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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content Strategist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Daniels Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to for fun analogies to explain healthcare waste.