Furry friends responsible for over 12,000 injury hospitalisations in 2021–22

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Cats and dogs, the most common domestic pets in Australia, were responsible for over half of all injury hospitalisations related to contact with animals in 2021–22, a new report has found.

Released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), ‘Contact with animals’ 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,” AIHW spokesperson Dr Sarah Ahmed said.

“There were 23,380 hospitalisations due to contact with animals in 2021–22, with a notable increase of 2230 (or 10 per cent) 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.”

In 2021–22, open wounds were the most common type of injury, followed by fractures, toxic effects, and superficial and soft tissue injury. The upper limbs and head and neck were the body parts most likely to be injured.

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,’ Dr 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.”

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