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…
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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.