Best Biosecurity Boots, AAEP 2008

We're all familiar with the medical/veterinary axiom: First do no harm. A recent Colorado State University (CSU) study extended this principle to biosecurity for ambulatory veterinarians: First, don't bring any diseases into a patient's stall, and don't take any out to spread to other patients.

For this study, researchers investigated the durability of four types of disposable overboots to see which held up to typical ambulatory practice walking and, thus, might provide the best protective barrier to avoid spreading disease. Josie L. Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at CSU, presented the results at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif.

"Personal protective equipment is an important component of a complete biosecurity program," said Traub-Dargatz. "Boots need to be affordable, durable, waterproof, readily available, and easy to put on and take off or people won't use them. Options (for footwear) include disposables or reusable boots you disinfect; for the latter you need to have a way to make up disinfectant, a container for the disinfectant, and a scrub brush. Most ambulatory practices don't carry all this stuff, which leaves disposables."

Biosecurity boots tests

The four different types of disposable overboots used in the test.

The disposable overboot study involved veterinary students walking a 265-foot course over gravel, concrete, and rubber stall mats wearing each of four commonly available boot types: Clear plastic boots from Continental Plastic Corp., blue plastic boots from Jorgensen Laboratories, and lightweight/heavyweight yellow boots from Global Protection. Boot price ranged from $0.30/pair for the clear boots to $2.32/pair for the lightweight yellow boots. Porosity of the boots (how much water they leaked) was measured by pouring two liters of water into each boot after walking the course and measuring how much leaked out in one minute.

Unsurprisingly, the heavier-weight yellow boots (both heavy and light) fared better than the clear and blue boots; one lightweight yellow boot leaked, compared to none of the heavy yellow boots, 83% of the clear boots, and 92% of the blue boots. The blue boots also leaked the highest average volume of water--209 mL, compared to 58 mL for the clear boots and 0.7 mL for the lightweight yellow boot.

"The blue and clear boots were the most affordable, but the least durable," Traub-Dargatz summarized. "The heavy yellow boots were the most durable, followed closely by the light yellow boots. Most students felt the light yellow boots were easiest to put on and take off. All of these boots were noisy to walk in, so keep your safety in mind; some horses may be hyperexcitable to the noise.

"If you're only going to put on the boots to go in the stall and take them off when you come out, the clear/blue boots may be okay, but if you'll be walking on concrete or gravel, their durability is questionable," she noted. "Pick the right size/style boots for your needs, and keep them with you always in case you need to examine contagious cases."

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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