How much is ACL surgery for a dog? Well, the truth is it can be quite expensive but wait and read this article before you despair. You might be able to do something about that.
First off, if your dog needs ACL surgery, we’re really sorry to hear that. We know how painful a torn cruciate ligament can be and how much despair you must be in seeing your dog in that much pain.
First of all, more correctly, an ACL surgery is actually called a CCL surgery in dogs. You see, ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament which is what we humans have. It’s the connective tissue in the middle of each of our knees. Canines, on the other hand, also have this tissue. However, it’s called the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) in dogs. This CCL connects the femur to the tibia. The femur is the bone found above the knee while the tibia is found below the knee.
When this cruciate ligament is torn or ruptured, a cruciate surgery would be required to repair that ligament so your dog can walk normally again. This CCL procedure in dogs is similar to the ACL procedure in humans.
So, want to find out more about ACL surgery for dogs? Keep reading.
ACL (CCL) Surgery For A Dog
According to statistics, CCL surgery is the most common orthopedic procedure carried out on dogs. In fact, it makes up 85% of all orthopedic surgeries carried out on dogs every year.
Because cruciate injuries are so common, experts have developed several kinds of techniques for carrying out CCL surgeries. Each of these techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, of course.
It is important, therefore, to discuss all the different techniques with your vet and confirm as well as their advantages and disadvantages. This way you can decide on what technique is best for your dog.
The factors you might want to consider when choosing an ACL procedure for your dog include the dog’s weight, age, size, as well as his lifestyle. The preference of your surgeon would also have to be considered too, not forgetting the cost of the procedure as well.
Check out this video for an overview of what an ACL (or more correctly, CCL) tear in dogs is as well as the surgical procedures involved in the repair of this torn ligament.
There are different methods of performing an ACL surgery on a dog and the cost of these methods vary, depending on the nature of the procedure. The experience and qualification of the surgeon will also matter as well as your geographical location.
Now, because health care for pets is not regulated as it is for humans, you can find that the cost of health care for your pets in urban areas can be double what it is in rural areas.
The cost of a veterinary ACL surgery fluctuates a lot. However, an understanding of the nature of the different methods can help you understand and appreciate the difference in cost across methods. Sadly, depending on where you live, these differences in ACL surgery procedures can add literally thousands of dollars to your bill.
In the end, choosing an ACL surgery procedure for your dog will depend on the one that’s best suited for your dog’s needs as well as your budget.
Types Of ACL Surgeries For Dogs — Four Types Of CCL Surgeries
There are four primary types of surgical procedures for ACL surgeries in dogs.
- Lateral Suture Technique also called Extracapsular Repair.
2.Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).
3.Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA).
4.Tight Rope Technique.
1. Lateral Suture Technique (Extracapsular Repair)
This is one of the oldest ACL surgery procedures carried out on dogs and is generally considered the traditional method of ACL surgery in dogs.
The purpose of this surgery is to make the hind joint regain its stability by putting the sutures outside of the joint. Doing this will mimic the action of a ligament and help the dog walk more stably.
In doing this, the surgeon places a continuous monofilament nylon suture around the femur’s fabella and then loops through a hole already drilled into the tibial tuberosity. When that is done, the surgeon ties the ends of the fishing-line-like sutures in place using a stainless steel clip.
Recovery after this procedure takes about 12 weeks within which your dog will require intensive care and confinement. The American Association of Veterinary Surgeons claims that this surgical procedure has a 90% success rate, so your dog’s chances are definitely good with this surgery.
The most common complication with this surgery is an infection of the incision point. So, as the owner, you’re going to have to be attentive to the cleaning and icing of the site of incision regularly.
Also, ensure that your dog constantly wears his Elizabethan collarso that he won’t lick on the affected area and aggravate the injury.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
In this procedure, the injured knee is restructured to a large extent. It was developed by Dr. Barclay Slocum, and at first, was considered quite radical. However, as the years passed, the surgery became increasingly popular and is still in use till today.
This procedure changes the grade and angle of the knee altogether, so some experts believe that it addresses the underlying problem of a ruptured ACL joint.
If you look at a dog whose CCL is ruptured from the side, it usually looks like the hind knee is perpetually bent. Even while just standing, these dogs appear to be bearing weight on their knee.
In the TPLO procedure, the surgeon relieves the ligaments of the surrounding joint of that pressure by changing the angle of the knee altogether.
So, they cut the tibial plateau and rotate it so that the slope changes. When this rotation is done, the knee is relieved of the pressure of weight-bearing for a prolonged time.
It’s a more in-depth approach than the first method we discussed — the Lateral Suture Technique. However, it takes less time for recovery. Post-operative care only takes about 12 weeks. However, within these 12 weeks, physical therapy must be carried out to enable your dog adjust to the new angle of their knee.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)
This is a different kind of procedure from what we have discussed in the first procedures mentioned. This procedure does not affect the ligament attached to the knee joint at all. Instead, the procedure changes the structure of the bone such that it no longer requires the ligament for stabilization.
So, the surgeon makes a linear incision along the front line of the tibia. The cut tibia is then moved forward and the surgeon then places a bone spacer in the now opened space between the tibial tuberosity and the tibia. Afterward, the surgeon places a metal plate made of stainless steel to stabilize the bone.
When this is done, the femur will no longer slide forward and there won’t be need for a cranial cruciate ligament anymore, intact or not.
For this procedure, post-operative care is very crucial. You must be ready to make several lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the effects of this invasive surgery on your dog.
Expect a post-op recovery time of up to twelve months. However, the first four weeks after the procedure will be the most crucial and the most intense.
Tight Rope Technique
This is one of the most recent ACL surgery methods for dogs, developed in the year 2007. The procedure was first attempted by a group of vet surgeons at the University of Missouri Veterinary College. Since then, this procedure has increased in popularity and is a much less expensive procedure than TTA surgery or TPLO surgery.
It’s a slight modification of a human ACL procedure for treating tears in the ligaments of the ankle. The surgeon drills small holes into the bone at the knee joint to create what is called bone tunnels. After this, the tunnels are branded with Fibertape. Fibertape is practically indestructible and threads the knee both in lateral and vertical directions.
Tightrope surgery is the least invasive and the most cost-effective ACL surgery for dogs you could possibly consider.
However, this procedure can only be carried out on dogs that are, at least, 40 pounds or heavier. Dogs who have had a stainless steel metal plate placed in their knee joint from past surgeries, regardless of size, cannot undergo the tightrope surgical procedure.
During recovery, you’d have to emphasize physical therapy to your dog. If you won’t be available or able to assist your dog with his mobility exercises, then you should probably opt for a different kind of surgery.
Watch the video below to learn more about tightrope surgery for ACL tear in dogs.
Now that you know the four kinds of surgeries available to you for ACL repair in dogs, it’s time to discuss with your vet surgeon. Remember that you’d need to keep the age, weight, size, and nature of your dog’s knee injury in mind when deciding what kind of procedure to go for.
Also, remember that the cost of the procedure will also affect what you opt for in the end as you have to consider your budget as well. If the really invasive surgeries are too expensive, then you can opt for a less invasive and more cost-effective option.
How Much Is ACL Surgery For A Dog?
Determining how much ACL surgery will cost for your dog is dependent on a lot of variables. Your geographical location, the procedure type, the medication involved, as well as the physical therapy requirements will all affect how much the surgical procedure will cost the dog owner.
But remember that it doesn’t end at the surgery. You’d also have to prepare your home for confinement and other necessary adjustments in order to make it conducive for the post-operative care requirements.
Also, if you decide to go for a specialized vet surgeon, you can be sure that the cost of the surgery will go up significantly.
Another thing you might want to consider is that you might have to take some time off work in order to be there for your dog. Even if you can’t, you might have to hire a sitter to care for your dog and that will also cost you some cash.
In the United States, vet hospitals in the metropolitan cities will cost you about twice what you’d spend in smaller towns.
Cities like Boston, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco have about the highest fees when it comes to ACL injuries in dogs.
Why these prices vary so widely from urban to rural areas is as a result of a number of factors.
For one, the cost of real estate in urban areas is much higher than in rural areas. Secondly, urban areas have a higher population and, therefore, a higher demand which, according to the laws of economics affects fees as well. Lastly, urban areas attract the more qualified and more experienced vet surgeons, partly because they get paid better.
Cost Of ACL Surgery For A Dog In Different Cities
The cost for ACL surgery for a dog in the regions mentioned below is taken from a specific vet clinic with a vet surgeon of, at least, 10 years experience. Costs might differ. However, generally, the cost of this surgery in these regions will fall within this price range.
New York City
This typically costs about $6350 dollars and the cost includes anesthesia, pre-operative and post-operative x-rays, four post-operative home visits, as well as an initial physical therapy session.
This costs about $4800 including anesthesia, pre-operative and post-operative x-rays, four post-operative visits, as well as an initial physical therapy session.
Lateral Suture Technique
This one is much cheaper costing about $995 — an all-inclusive deal.
This costs about $650 in New York. It’s the most cost-effective as we have said.
However, small dogs can’t undergo this procedure same as dogs who have undergone ACL surgery before. Please, note that this cost will not cover physical therapy which is a critical aspect of post-operative care for this procedure.
Orange County, California
This costs about $4300. Usually, this cost will include pre-operative and post-operative X-rays, two visits at home post-surgery, but does not include physical therapy.
You might also have to pay about $200 for an initial consultation and then another $100 for follow-up therapy in most clinics in this area.
This is a less expensive procedure at about $3700. Like the TPLO surgery, TTA surgery in this region will cover all surgery-related requirements besides physical therapy.
Lateral Suture Surgery
This comes as an all-inclusive cost of about $1000.
As usual, this is the most affordable technique at about $850. This fee contains everything needed for the surgery besides physical therapy.
This surgery costs about $3300. However, this fee does not include physical therapy as well as post-operative care costs. Every other cost concerning surgery is included in this fee.
This falls within the range of about $2600. Just like TPLO, physical fees and post-operative costs are not included here just surgical costs.
Lateral Suture Surgery
This costs about $850 but does not include post-operative fees or physical therapy.
This goes for about $750. It includes both physical therapy and treatment.
This should cost about $4400 including all aspects of surgery but no post-operative care.
This costs about $3600 without any post-operative care.
Lateral Suture Surgery
This goes for about $995, an all-inclusive package including follow-up appointments but not including physical therapy.
Costing about $850, this fee will cover pre-operative and post-operative care. However, it won’t include post-surgical physical therapy.
Charleston, South Carolina
Usually, this could cost between $3250 and $3700 including all the necessary x-rays and checkups.
This will cost you about $2000 just for surgery. Other fees associated with the surgical procedure are not included in $2000 for the surgery.
Lateral Suture Surgery
This should cost about $895, an all-inclusive deal including x-rays and post-operative lab work. This cost does not include physical therapy.
Veterinary Insurance For ACL Surgery In Dogs
Having insurance for your pet is a huge advantage for dogs and dog owners as the insurance can help to cover a huge portion of your fees. In most cases, with pet insurance, you might end up paying only about 10% of the surgery.
Nonetheless, you might have to bear the cost of physical therapy alone. Depending on the pet insurance company though, your insurance might also be able to cover a small part of physical therapy fees as well.
Alternative Care Methods To ACL Surgery In Dogs
If the cost of ACL surgery for a dog is way beyond your budget, there might be another way for you to take care of your dog’s torn cruciate ligament besides surgery.
Especially if your dog weighs less than 40 pounds, your dog can recover fully from a ruptured ligament with the use of a knee brace, confinement, limited activity, acupuncture, ice therapy, a massage, vitamins, supplements (including turmeric, glucosamine, and fish oil), swimming, and other treatments.
Typically, surgery produces results much faster. However, if your budget won’t let you, then you can use the care process mentioned above known as conservation management.
You can get a non-rigid bracewhich can help to stabilize the knee joint. It’s great for handling sprains, strains, and other CCL injuries of the knee.
Here is a video of a dog treated with conservation management for his torn CCL.
Another method that could help you by-pass surgery if you can’t afford it at this time is prolotherapy. Also known as proliferation therapy or regenerative injection therapy, this method can be a godsend if surgery is way beyond your budget right now.
In this method, the veterinarian will inject an irritant solution into the affected ligament or tendon. When injected, this irritant solution will help to stimulate the healing of the tear in the ligament and relieve pain as well.
Watch as Dr. Marc Smith carries out this procedure in the video below:
Complications Of ACL Surgery In Dogs
The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (AVCS) says the prognosis of ACL surgery in dogs is quite good. Dogs who have had to undergo a surgical repair of their torn cruciate ligament show observable improvement 95 to 90% of the time.
However, like all surgical procedures, even ACL surgeries in dogs come with complications. The most common complications with ACL surgery in dogs include infection, implant failure, as well as a lack of stabilization.
Things worsen if your dog has osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common complication that occurs with the tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs. Once this occurs, with or without surgery, the condition progresses and gradually worsens. However, a surgical procedure can slow things down a bit.
Please note that arthritis is progressive in nature and develops faster in stiff, injured joints. You should, therefore, consider preventing and managing arthritis in your dog once he has any ACL surgery procedure.
Dogs That Are More Prone To A Torn Cruciate Ligament
The precise cause of a torn cruciate ligament in dogs is unknown. However, it is believed that genetics play a role in this case. Some experts also believe that neutering or spaying your dog at a really young age can contribute to this since the dog gets bigger than normal.
If your dog has suffered knee injuries before such as patellar luxation, or any trauma in the knee, he is more likely to suffer a torn cruciate ligament at some point.
Dog breeds that are particularly prone to tearing their cranial cruciate ligament include:
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
- Labrador Retriever.
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
- Neopolitan Mastiff.
- Saint Bernard.
Now, for most cases, it’s senior dogs who often come down with cases of torn cruciate ligaments. Nonetheless, sometimes, younger dogs can sometimes also come down with torn cranial cruciate ligament.
Symptoms Of ACL Injury In Dogs
For humans, an ACL tear usually occurs after a sharp trauma mostly after a sudden change in direction or a jump.
For dogs, the CCL tear begins little by little and worsens over time. Physical activity brings the initial small tear into a full-blown tear. You know, dogs can hardly resist engaging in quick, sudden movements which only aggravates an already torn CCL.
One way you can tell your dog has a torn CCL is when he begins to show signs of lameness. Limping begins and gradually gets worse as the dog begins to favor the non-injured leg.
Now, as the dog begins to use the injured knee less and less, favoring the non-injured knee, he puts pressure on that knee (the non-injured one). This is the reason that, oftentimes, an ACL injury on one knee eventually leads to an injury on the other knee about 60% of the time.
Preventing ACL Tears In Dogs
It can be quite difficult to prevent ACL tears in dogs because this usually occurs during activity. Of course, you can’t exactly keep your dog from engaging in activity in order to keep him from tearing his cranial cruciate ligament. This will put your pet in all kinds of health risks.
One thing you can do, though, is to delay neutering or spaying until your dog is, at least, two years old. This will help to mitigate the risk of suffering a torn cruciate ligament later in life. Vets, on the other hand, warn against delaying neutering or spaying as it could lead to the breeding of unwanted puppies.
Breeders can also help to prevent ACL tears in dogs by stopping the breeding of dogs who show a genetic predisposition to torn cruciate ligaments repeatedly. (Learn how to start a dog breeding business by clicking here to read our article: How To Start A Dog Breeding Business).
Preventing torn cruciate ligaments in dogs does not end here though. According to statistics, 50% of dogs who tear one cruciate ligament will tear the other one on the opposite side sometime in future. In fact, from practice, experts have seen this figure to be closer to 70% in most cases.
The reason for this other injury is mostl.y due to the overuse of the good knee.
However, you can prevent this by engaging in physical therapy for the operated leg, hormone supplementation can also help, as well as vitamin and mineral supplements to aid the formation of collagen.