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

UNDER EMBARGO—until 12.01AM, Wednesday, 13 March, 2024

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.

Released today 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,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Sarah Ahmed.

‘There were 23,380 hospitalisations due to contact with animals in 2021–22, with a notable increase of 2,230 (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.’

In 2021–22, open wounds were the most common type of injury, accounting for 13,420 (57%) cases, followed by fractures (15%), toxic effects (10%), and superficial (5%) and soft tissue injury (4.5%). The upper limbs (46%) and head and neck (14%) were the body parts most likely to be injured. 

Allergic reactions to animals sent 1,180 cases to hospital, the majority being males who were twice as likely as females to be hospitalised for this reason (5.9 and 3.2 per 100,000 respectively). Anaphylactic reactions to bites and stings have the potential to be fatal, however the report does not include information on deaths.

Common Pets

‘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,’ said Dr Ahmed.

‘Over 2 in 3 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 5,030 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.

Wildlife and 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,’ said Dr Ahmed. 

Wildlife and venomous animals caused 4,980 injury hospitalisations in 2021–22, making up 1 in 5 (21%) injury hospitalisations due to contact with animals. Reptiles made up 48% (2,394), followed by insects and arthropods (30%) and venomous snakes or lizards (11%). 

Marine animals

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 3 in 4 hospitalisations from all jellyfish. 

Monitoring trends in animal injury hospitalisations informs discussion about evolving human-animal encounters and injury prevention and management. For more information about AIHW’s reports on injuries, see our website.

Media enquiries: Quinn Guy, mob. 0468 525 418


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