Skip to Content
Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
Free Consultations 505-219-2176

What Are the Dangers of a Dog Bite?

An animal attack is a horrific experience. Beyond the physical pain and injury, there is also a sense of powerlessness, as it is difficult for a human to fight back. When you are attacked by a dog, it often comes as a surprise. We tend to see dogs as a normal part of American life, and we assume that most of them are friendly. However, unleashed, aggressive dogs can seemingly come from nowhere, suddenly inflicting terror and injury.

There are many different ways a dog attack could injure you, and there are damaging aftereffects of those injuries. Let’s take a look at some of the ways people are harmed, and what legal options are available to you if you are now suffering.

Common Dog Bite Injuries


An abrasion is a scraping of the top layer of skin, not digging deep into the tissue. A skinned knee is an example of an abrasion. A dog attack itself can leave abrasions, but you could also receive them from falling during the attack. If the attack leads to any other injuries, those injuries can be included in a lawsuit against the owner.


A laceration is a deep cut, going down into the layers of skin. Lacerations are characterized by jaggedness. In a canine attack, teeth and claws are likely to dig into and tear the skin, causing these cuts.


Incisions are straight, clean cuts. Surgeon’s cuts are incisions. Depending on how you were attacked, you could suffer from incisions. A dog’s dewclaw, for example, can be sharp and pointed like a knife, cutting flesh in clean lines. Incisions tend to take longer to heal than other cuts.

Puncture Wounds

A puncture occurs when something small and sharp enters the skin and goes deep into the inner layers. These wounds are deceptively dangerous. From the outside, you just see a small hole in the skin. What you can’t see is how far down the hole goes or how deep the damage is. Puncture wounds often get infected. Whatever entered your skin had its own germs and bacteria on it. That object travels down, contacting unseen layers of skin, then rubs those layers again on the way out. Microbial invaders may become trapped as it is difficult to get down into the wound and clean it out.

Bone Damage

Depending on the size of the person and the dog, an animal attack could fracture or break bones. You could be crushed under the weight of the animal, or you could be thrown against a hard surface, injuring your frame.


Avulsion, in a medical sense, refers to something pulling away from its bottom layer. Muscles can be avulsed from bones; the top layer of bone can be avulsed; etc. If a dog attack is severe, you could suffer a skin avulsion where the skin is pulled away from the tissue underneath. Avulsions are serious, and they require surgery to mend. Even after the surgery, there is no guarantee that the skin will reattach itself. Avulsed skin may need to be removed, which would then require skin graft surgery.

Effects of Dog Bite Injuries

Injuries often come in two phases. First, there is the initial pain and damage that needs immediate treatment. Second, after the initial, urgent problems are corrected, complications may occur.


Infection has been mentioned in this article already. It occurs when germs or bacteria enter a wound. Depending on the wound, it may be difficult to properly clean. The injury can be too deep or in places impossible to reach.

Infection cannot be taken lightly. If you have a minor cut that gets infected, you’ll see redness, swelling, and perhaps some discharge. Deep infections can spread, affecting parts of the body that weren’t part of the initial wound. This can lead to illness, where people can get a fever, chills, nausea, and a host of other problems. Left untreated, this kind of severe infection could lead to death.


Rabies is a virus that often spreads among undomesticated animals. Dogs that live as pets should be regularly vaccinated against rabies as the virus is not only dangerous to them, but also to the humans they come into contact with. Rabid animals are often aggressive and quick to attack. When a rabid animal bites a human, they can transfer the rabies virus to that person.

People infected with rabies can suffer both mentally and physically. Physical symptoms will resemble a cold or flu, including headache, nausea, fever, etc. Rabies symptoms tend to worsen over time. Left unchecked, rabies can start to affect your throat. You may have difficulty swallowing; you can start salivating; you may even start to avoid food and drink because swallowing is too painful.

Neurological symptoms of rabies are particularly worrying. When the infection reaches this level, the virus starts to affect your mind and your mood. You can become anxious, agitated, and hyperactive. Confusion could set in, affecting your memory and your choices, and you could have trouble sleeping. When the psychological symptoms are severe, you can experience hallucinations and even develop paralysis in your limbs. Once the neurological symptoms get to that extreme, it may be too late. Most people at that stage of a rabies infection will die.


Tetanus is a bacterial infection. The bacterium in question is called “Clostridium tetani.” When something carrying this bacterium enters your skin, particularly in a puncture wound, it makes contact with deep tissue layers, spreading bacteria outward. Clostridium tetani produces a toxin that contracts muscles, leading to lockjaw. Jaw and neck muscles lock in place, making it difficult to open your mouth, eat, drink, and swallow. Left untreated, tetanus can be fatal.


Any time your skin breaks, there is a risk of scarring after it mends. When dogs attack, they tend to target the face and neck. This could lead to scarring on the face. Facial scarring has a devastating psychological impact on many, as it can radically alter appearance.

Nerve Damage

Depending on how deep a dog’s bite goes, there could be permanent nerve damage. Surgeons are sometimes able to repair nerve damage, but more often, it lasts a lifetime. Nerve damage can limit mobility. It can make certain areas of the body numb to any feeling, or it could also go the other direction, causing chronic pain.

Psychological Trauma

Any abrupt injury can leave a traumatic scar on the psyche, from a dog bite to a car wreck. People can develop PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD affects people in different ways. Often, veterans or victims of abuse are triggered by loud noises. People with PTSD can be hyper aware, constantly shifting their focus to everything going on around them. They can become avoidant, have mood swings, intrusive thoughts, sleep problems, memory problems, etc.

Dog attacks often have a traumatic effect on children. Kids will often have nightmares about being attacked. Some may become afraid to leave the house, or they may develop other PTSD-like symptoms. Many will develop an irrational fear of all dogs, and that fear can last into adulthood.


Any serious injury can lead to death. When that happens, we refer to it as a “fatal injury.” If someone you love was killed by a vicious dog, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. Talk to a lawyer about your options.

Dog Bite Laws in New Mexico

Owner Liability

New Mexico does not have many specific laws addressing pet attacks. However, owners are expected to control their animals. When an attack happens, it is possible to sue the owner under specific guidelines.

New Mexico acknowledges that dogs are only animals. Even the gentlest of dogs may have an instinctual trigger that causes them to lash out. Prior knowledge is the key to proving an owner’s liability. If the dog has a history of attacking people, owners have a responsibility to take extra precautions. Failure to do so falls into the category of “strict liability,” where owners are held responsible for the dog’s actions.

Landlord Liability

As long as a landlord still has control of their property, they can be held liable for dog attacks. Lawyers must prove that landlords had prior knowledge of the dog’s violent history. The court must also be able to see that the landlord did not take the necessary steps to remove the animal. Once control of the property is handed over to someone else, that person becomes liable for the dog’s behavior, and the landlord is free of responsibility.

If you’ve been injured in a pet attack, call (505) 219-2176 or contact us online today. We offer free consultations, and we want to help you seek the compensation you deserve.