Hundreds of surgeries performed after dog attacks in Christchurch
Christchurch Hospital is treating people for dog bites almost daily, with more than 350 people needing major surgery in the last five years.
Bite victims are almost twice as likely to be younger than 10, data obtained by Stuff shows.
Debate over dog control has reignited in the past month after a spate of attacks.
A pregnant woman, who was attacked by two dogs in the Christchurch suburb of Avondale, required hospital treatment. That followed an attack on a 72-year-old Christchurch woman while she was cycling and a 2-year-old boy who was mauled in the suburb of Woolston.
Elsewhere, a 7-year-old boy was badly mauled by his uncle's pit bull terrier in Auckland.
Data from the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) shows 76 people received major surgical treatment for dog-related injuries in 2015. There were 366 procedures between 2011 and 2015. This included a small number of non-theatre procedures.
Canterbury plastic surgeons say the number of attacks is under-reported, and anecdotally, they see a person with a dog-related injury "almost every day".
CDHB plastics department clinical director Dr Jeremy Simcock said most victims required a three-day stay in hospital, but some patients needed weeks of care.
"The most serious dog attacks, or maulings, often result in the victim requiring multiple operations to repair damaged tissues and to prevent infection. Often patients are left with serious scarring, disability and are very traumatised from the event."
In most cases, the dog was known to the victim, belonging to their friend, relative or neighbour.
The number of attacks had remained stable since 2011. In the five-year time frame, 92 children aged between 0 and 9 were attacked. The next highest age group was those aged between 20 and 29, with just 50 procedures.
The most common suburb a patient who had been bitten came from was Aranui.
In the 2015 calendar year, 1103 people from Christchurch reported dog bites to ACC.
In Auckland there were 2813, Wellington had 321 and Dunedin 275.
The total number of claims New Zealand-wide had increased almost year-on-year since 2010, to 13,206 claims made in 2015.
ACC paid out $3.1 million for dog bite claims nationally last year.
The number of claims requiring entitlements — ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation and/ or weekly compensation — increased from 188 in 2010, to 273 in 2015.
New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons president, and CDHB plastic surgeon, Sally Langley said someone arrived at hospital with a dog bite "almost every day".
However, it was difficult to know the true number as incidents were under-reported, and many people attempted to treat themselves at home. This was dangerous because of the high rate of infection.
One patient presented this year with such a bad infection they took "weeks of readmissions", she said.
Minor dog-related injuries were dealt with in the emergency department.
More severe injuries needed several trips to the operating theatre for stitches or further treatment.
"We only see the tip of the iceberg. People try and treat them themselves, particularly those who don't have their dogs registered and such."
Cat scratches and bites were less common, Langley said.
Dog breeds are represented across the board, but the most major attacks tended to be from the "more menacing, dangerous breeds". Pit bulls and mixed breeds were the most common cause of major attacks, she said.
Langley urged anyone bitten by a dog to seek treatment from their GP immediately. People usually required antibiotics and did not realise how severe infections from a dog bite could be, she said.
Top 5 areas for people attacked by dogs 2011-15:
Cathedral Square: 8
North Beach: 8
Number of people attacked by age: