Objective To identify the prevalence of exposure to potentially harmful occupational hazards in Australian female veterinarians and to report factors associated with prevalence of occupational hazards in this profession.Design National cross-sectional survey of a cohort population.Procedure A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 5748 veterinarians (males and females) graduating from Australian veterinary schools from 1960 to 2000. This paper reports the prevalence of occupational exposures in 1197 female veterinarians in their current job including radiation, anaesthetic gases, pesticides and long working hours. Comparisons were undertaken between respondents by practice type and decades of graduation. Multivariate logistic regression was undertaken to predict the risk for exposure to occupational hazards in female veterinarians by age, type of practice, graduation year and number of hours worked.Results The response rate for females was 59%. We found that age under 30 years, small and mixed animal practice, graduation year after 1990, and working more than 45 hours per week were all associated with greater exposure to putative risk factors. Mixed animal practitioners worked more than 45 hours per week (53%) and reported the highest exposure to anaesthetic gases (94%) and pesticides (54%). Twenty two percent of those who were exposed to anaesthetic gases did not have waste anaesthetic gas scavenging systems. Small animal practitioners reported they took more X-rays (90%). While taking X-rays, 56% of respondents reported physically restraining animals, and only one in five of respondents used film holders and lead screens.Conclusions The high prevalence of potentially harmful exposures among female veterinarians and lack of use of protective equipment at work needs to be considered 'in developing and planning the safety of veterinary work.