Surgical gloves were collected after 231 first opinion and referral surgical procedures performed at the University of Liverpool Small Animal Hospital. They were tested for defects by the water load test and the site of any defects was recorded; 10·2 per cent of the gloves had defects, and at least one glove became defective during 51 (22·1 per cent) of the surgical procedures. Significantly more defects occurred during orthopaedic procedures and the likelihood of a defect occurring increased with the duration of the surgical procedure. The majority (78 per cent) of the defects occurred in the gloves worn on the non-dominant hand and 64 per cent of them were in the index finger. The surgeon or assistant was aware of a glove being punctured in only 3·8 per cent of cases.