3rd May 2019, Volume 132 Number 1494

Jonathan Mair, Natasha Duncan-Sutherland, Zachary Moaveni

In 2014 there were 531,158 registered dogs in New Zealand.1 There are many potential benefits of dog ownership,2,3 however, dog bite injuries can cause significant morbidity, and be difficult to…

Subscriber content

The full contents of this page is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe


The incidence of serious dog bites requiring hospitalisation in New Zealand has risen over the study period 2004–2014 and in comparison to earlier New Zealand studies over the previous two decades. Unfortunately the most vulnerable members of society (children under 10 and those from low socioeconomic areas) are also the most at-risk for these injuries. It appears that current New Zealand legislation has been ineffective in addressing the rise in this preventable public health issue.



This retrospective cohort study aims to describe the incidence of dog bite injuries requiring hospitalisation across New Zealand in the 10-year period between 2004 and 2014.


The National Minimum Dataset (NMDS) was used to collate information from public and private hospital discharges for publicly funded events in New Zealand with the external cause of injury code W54.0 (Bitten by Dog) during the period of 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2014. Information regarding potential risk factors and indicators of severity was also collected.


From 2004 to 2014 there were 4,958 dog bites requiring hospitalisation in New Zealand, giving an overall incidence of 11.3 (11.0–11.6) per 100,000 people per annum, representing 496 events per year on average. The average length of stay in hospital was 2.5 days (SD = 3.5 days). The overall incidence has been rising during this period from 9.7 (8.8–10.7) per 100,000 population per annum in 2004 to a peak of 12.3 (11.3–13.4) per 100,000 in 2013/14. The highest risk factors were identified as children under the age of 10 years, Māori and those with a higher deprivation score. In cases where the scene of injury was recorded, 69% occurred at a private residence or property. Head and neck bites were increasingly common in younger age groups, with 78% of the 0–4 year age group and 63% of the 5–9 year age group injured in the head/neck region. Upper and lower limb bites were increasingly common in older age groups.


The incidence of dog bite injuries requiring hospitalisation has continued to rise in comparison with previously published rates in New Zealand. Additionally, more vulnerable population subgroups have been identified who are most likely to require hospitalisation.

Author Information

Jonathan Mair, House Surgeon, Wellington Regional Hospital, Riddiford Street, Wellington;
Natasha Duncan-Sutherland, Emergency Registrar, Emergency Department, Auckland Hospital, Park Road, Auckland; Zachary Moaveni, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Department of Plastic Surgery, Middlemore Hospital, Auckland.


The contributions of Dr Irene Zeng and Dr Keming Wang to the statistical analysis are greatly appreciated. This study was funded by contributions from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Counties Manukau DHB and the Department of Plastic Surgery, Middlemore Hospital.


Dr Zachary Moaveni, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon, Department of Plastic Surgery, Middlemore Hospital, Otahuhu, Auckland.

Correspondence Email


Competing Interests



  1. Department of Internal Affairs. National Dog Database: Dog Control Statistics. 2014.
  2. Cutt H, Giles-Corti B, Knuiman M, Burke V. Dog Ownership, Health and Physical Activity: A Critical Review of the Literature. Health & Place. 2007; 13(1):261–72.
  3. Coleman KJ, Rosenberg DE, Conway TL, et al. Physical Activity, Weight Status, and Neighborhood Characteristics of Dog Walkers. Prev Med. 2008; 47(3):309–12.
  4. Morgan M, Palmer J. Dog Bites. BMJ. 2007; 334:413–17.
  5. Kaye AE, Belz JM, Kirschner RE. Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries: A 5-Year Review of the Experience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009; 124(2):551–58.
  6. Bjork A, Holman RC, Callinan LS, et al. Dog Bite Injuries among American Indian and Alaska Native Children. J Pediatr. 2013; 162(6):1270–75.
  7. Kasbekar A, Garfit H, Duncan C, et al. Dog Bites to the Head and Neck in Children; an Increasing Problem in the UK. Clin Otolaryngol. 2013; 38(3):259–62.
  8. Chiam SC, Solanki NS, Lodge M, et al. Retrospective Review of Dog Bite Injuries in Children Presenting to a South Australian Tertiary Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. Journal of paediatrics & child health. 2014; 50(10):791–94.
  9. Boat BW, Dixon CA, Pearl E, et al. Pediatric Dog Bite Victims a Need for a Continuum of Care. Clin Pediatr. 2012; 51(5):473–77.
  10. Peters V, Sottiaux M, Appelboom J, Kahn A. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after Dog Bites in Children. J Pediatr. 2004; 144(1):121–22.
  11. Bini JK, Cohn SM, Acosta SM, et al. Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs. Ann Surg. 2011; 253(4):791–97.
  12. Benfield R, Plurad DS, Lam L, et al. The Epidemiology of Dog Attacks in an Urban Environment and the Risk of Vascular Injury. Am Surg. 2010; 76(2):203–5.
  13. Official Information Act Request. Accident Compensation Corporation, Editor 2014: Wellington, New Zealand.
  14. Marsh L, Langley J, Gauld R. Dog Bite Injuries. N Z Med J (online). 2004; 117(1201).
  15.  Ministry of Health. National Health Board. National Minimum Dataset (Hospital Events) Data Dictionary. 2014. Wellington, New Zealand
  16. Ministry of Health. Factsheet:Short stay emergency department events (online). 2015. Wellington. New Zealand. Available: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/factsheet-short-stay-emergency-department-events (2016, 11 March).
  17. Salmond C, Crampton P, Atkinson J. NZdep 2006 Index of Deprivation. 2007. University of Otago. Department of Public Health, Wellington.
  18. Statistics New Zealand. DHB Age-Sex Projections 2013-2026 (2013 Census Based). 2014.
  19. Statistics New Zealand. DHB Age-Sex Projections 2006-2026 (2006 Census Based). 2013.
  20. Wang, K. DHB Estimated Population by Age, Gender and Prioritised Ethnic Groups, 1991–2031. 2012.
  21. Ahmad OB, Boschi-Pinto C, Lopez AD, et al. Age Standardization of Rates: A New WHO Standard, 2001. World Health Organization.
  22. Langley J. The Incidence of Dog Bites in New Zealand. N Z Med J. 1992; 105(927):33–35.
  23. Health and Social Care Information Centre. www.hscic.gov.uk. Admissions caused by Dogs and Other Mammals. 2014.
  24. Cassell E, Ashby K. Unintentional Dog Bite Injury in Victoria: 2005–7, Hazard. 2009; 69:1–24.
  25. Cornelissen JM, Hopster H. Dog Bites in the Netherlands: A Study of Victims, Injuries, Circumstances and Aggressors to Support Evaluation of Breed Specfiic Legislation. Vet J. 2010; 186(3):292–298.
  26. Ioannidou C, Galanis P, Tsoumakas K, Pavlopoulou I. Characteristics of Dog Bites among Nursing Students and Knowledge About Their Emergency Management. Int Nurs Rev. 2012; 59(2):245–251.
  27. Davis AL, Schwebel DC, Morrongiello BA, et al. Dog Bite Risk: An Assessment of Child Temperament and Child-Dog Interactions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2012; 9(8):3002–3013.


The downloadable PDF version of this article is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe