Common pets behind 12,000 injury hospitalisations: AIHW

Friday, 15 March, 2024

Common pets behind 12,000 injury hospitalisations: AIHW

Cats and dogs, the most common domestic pets in Australia, were responsible for over half (53%) of all injury hospitalisations related to contact with animals in 2021–22.

This is according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) report titled Contact with animals that explores who is commonly injured and the types of animals responsible. The report describes patterns and trends in hospital admissions due to contact with animals between July 2012 and June 2022. It does not include data on emergency department presentations.

“During this 10-year period, hospitalised injuries due to contact with animals gradually increased. The age standardised rate of these injuries increased from 66.5 per 100,000 in 2012–13 to 90.5 in 2021–22,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Sarah Ahmed.

“There were 23,380 hospitalisations due to contact with animals in 2021–22, with a notable increase of 2230 (or 10%) hospitalisations from 2019–20 to 2020–21. The Pets and the Pandemic survey by Animal Medicines Australia indicates increased pet ownership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Injury types

In 2021–22, the most frequent type of injuries caused by contact with animals were open wounds (13,419 cases, 57%) followed by fractures, toxic effects and superficial and soft tissue injuries. The body parts most commonly injured were the upper limbs (nearly half of these injuries) and head and neck.

Allergic reactions to animals sent 1180 cases to hospital, the majority being males who were twice as likely as females to be hospitalised for this reason. Anaphylactic reactions to bites and stings have the potential to be fatal; however, the report does not include information on deaths.

“Although owning a pet comes with a risk of injury, research has shown that interactions between humans and animals can provide benefits to our health and wellbeing,” Ahmed said.

“Over two in three Australian households are estimated to own a pet, so unsurprisingly common domestic pets account for the largest proportion of animals involved in injury hospitalisations.”

Two in three pet owners are female and are 1.2 times as likely as males to be hospitalised due to a common pet-related injury.

With 5030 injury hospitalisations, livestock made up almost a quarter (22%) of all injury hospitalisations due to contact with animals in 2021–22. Horses (22%), cows (13%) and sheep (3%) were the livestock most frequently contributing to injury hospitalisations. Females were twice as likely to be injured than males.

Venomous vs non-venomous animals

In 2021–22, the crude rate of injury hospitalisations due to venomous animals was 11.1 per 100,000, as compared to 72.8 per 100,000 for non-venomous animals.

“Australia is home to some of the most venomous animals in the world; however, Australians are 6.6 times as likely to be hospitalised due to injury involving non-venomous compared to venomous animals,” Ahmed said.

Injuries from marine animals most frequently occurred in summer during leisure activities. Sea creatures were responsible for 525 injury hospitalisations during 2021–22, making up 2.2% of all injury hospitalisations due to contact with animals. Males were more than twice as likely to be injured than females.

In 302 cases, 58%, these marine animals were venomous. The most common venomous marine animals contributing to these hospitalisations were jellyfish (23% of marine animals), stingrays (18%) and stinging fish (16%). Stings from the Irukandji jellyfish made up over three in four hospitalisations from all jellyfish.

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