How much does ACL surgery cost for a dog?

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Have you noticed when in the park with your dog, playing with the frisbee, all of a sudden he makes a crying sound and starts to limp on his hind leg? And this happened after a landing on the ground, from a jump you didn’t quite find well executed. Or, have you noticed your dog sitting funny, with his leg straight forward? The possibility is that your dog may have suffered a rupture of the ligament, which can only be repaired by surgery. 

This type of surgery will most likely cost you between $750 and $7000 per knee.

What can lead to rupture of the ligament and  ACL surgery in dogs?

Before we explain a bit more about the surgery, it should be mentioned that dogs don’t have the anterior cruciate ligament but they have the cranial cruciate ligament. This is the same thing, it’s a connective tissue between the upper bone of the knee called the femur and the lower bone of the knee called the tibia. There are a few factors that could lead to the rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs:

  • trauma
  • obesity
  • genetic predisposition (large breeds of dogs are more prone to this type of injury)
  • immune-mediated disease
  • inflammation or bacteria in the knee joint
  • early neuter

 

What are the signs that your dog has ruptured or torn cranial cruciate ligament?

If you notice your dog showing signs of lameness or maybe pain when using one or both hind legs, that’s your cue that you may need to visit your vet or consult at a referral hospital. Your dog may also be reluctant to play as he used to or would not be very happy if he needs to climb the stairs. Owners also notice some swelling around the knee joint and a clicking sound. Another important sign is that the dog likes to sit in what owners say “lazy” position, where the affected limb goes out to the side. 

How is it diagnosed?

Because this type of injury is often seen, and an accurate anamnesis from the owner points the right way, it is usually easy to confirm when your dog has this type of injury. However, many times, the vet or the specialist will choose to confirm this. In those cases, the dog is usually sedated, because the vet needs him to be relaxed, with no tension in the legs. There are two common tests that are quite reliable for diagnosing a tear in the cranial cruciate ligament:

  • the cranial drawer test: is where your vet holds onto the femur and tibia and tries to see how far forward the tibia will move in relation to the femur.
  • the tibial thrust test: where the vet will try to mimic weight bearing on the suspected limb to see how the front of the tibia is pushing in relation to the femur
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Other ways for diagnosis are of course using advanced imaging such as radiography, CT, and MRI.

How do you treat rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs?

The most common way to treat this pathology is by surgery. There are several surgical options available, and it all depends on the place and availability of the orthopedic surgeon performing it. 

1 – Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy – TPLO

This is a surgery where the tibia is cut and rotated, after which it is fixed with a special plate and screws. This surgery is usually preferred in large and giant breeds of dogs. The cost for this is between $2500 and $6000.

2 – Tibial Tuberosity Advancement – TTA

TTA is another invasive surgery, but not as much as TPLO. Here, again we see the reconfiguration of the tibia via cutting and placing an artificial spacing device and then securing the part of the bone with a plate and screws. You should expect a price range between $3000 and $6000 for this surgery.

3 – TightRope Technique

This is an option often used for smaller breed dogs, where the surgeon drills holes in the tibia and femur and stabilizes the joint using strong material that acts as the cranial cruciate ligament. This is a less expensive procedure and costs between $800 and $1700.

4.Lateral Suture Technique

Here, the surgeon uses an artificially made ligament, which is placed outside of the joining rather than inside. In the long term, this may cause your dog to have limited movement and this procedure is not recommended for larger, more active dogs. The price for this is between $850 and $1500.

Conclusion

Yes, the prices sound scary, but unfortunately, they are your dog’s best option. Keep in mind that you need to listen to all of the postoperative care recommendations by the vet, because many times, the surgery itself is the last thing. Recovery is as always the most important time, as with any surgery. If you are an owner of a large dog that may be prone to this type of pathology, we strongly recommend you consider pet insurance.