At the interface of molecular biology and epidemiology, the emerging discipline of molecular epidemiology offers unique opportunities to advance the study of diseases through the investigation of infectious agents at the molecular level. Molecular tools can increase our understanding of the factors that shape the spatial and temporal distribution of pathogens and disease. Both spatial and molecular aspects have always been important to the field of infectious disease epidemiology, but recently news tools have been developed which increase our ability to consider both elements within a common framework. This enables the epidemiologist to make inferences about disease patterns in space and time. This paper introduces some basic concepts of molecular epidemiology in a veterinary context and illustrates the application of molecular tools at a range of spatio-temporal scales. Case studies - a multi-state outbreak of Serratia mastitis, a national control program for campylobacteriosis, and evolution of foot-and-mouth-disease viruses - are used to demonstrate the importance of considering molecular aspects in modern epidemiological studies. The discipline of molecular epidemiology is in its infancy and our contribution aims to promote awareness, understanding and uptake of molecular epidemiology in veterinary science.