A one year prospective study was conducted to determine the association between intravenous catheter contamination and increased dwell time, and to identify any related risk factors. Intravenous catheters obtained from 23 cats and 98 dogs in the Intensive Care Unit at the Ontario Veterinary College with dwell times > 72 hours for the test group (n=58) and < 72 hours for a corresponding control group (n=63) were cultured between April 1991 and March 1992. One hundred and twenty one catheters were cultured, 16 jugular, 99 cephalic, and 6 saphenous. The overall contamination rate was 13 out of 121 catheters cultured (10.7%); 9/63 (14.3%) control and 4/58 (6.9%) test catheters. The bacteria isolated were E.aerogenes, S.aureus (3), P.aeruginosa, P.multocida, and Bacillus sp (7). The Bacillus sp positive catheters (5 control and 2 test) were placed during a five day period, and contaminated gauze squares were identified as the source of infection in these catheters. After these were removed from the study, the group infection rate was 6.9% control and 3.6% test. There was no significant difference between groups and no associated risk factors were identified. We conclude that intravenous dwell time need not be restricted to <72 hours.