Dog ACL Surgery: Price, What It Fixes, and Recovery

Written by Amber LaRock
Updated: December 6, 2022
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If you were just told that your dog with a torn cranial cruciate ligament needs surgery, you are likely overwhelmed with a variety of questions about what comes next. Many of us are aware of just how impactful knee surgery is for people, so you might be asking yourself if the same journey lies ahead for your pup. We want you to be as informed as possible about your dog’s upcoming surgery, including details of the procedure itself as well as the potential costs that lie ahead.

To make sure you are prepared for anything that comes your dog’s way, let’s dive into everything you need to know about your dog’s ACL repair surgery. We will discuss the most common ACL surgery options, the standard recovery times, and the average costs you can expect to pay along the way.

Let’s get started!

Dog laying down on the floor not wanting to move around.

The CCL provides critical support in a dog’s knee, so when the ligament becomes injured in any way, it can impact your dog’s quality of life.

©iStock.com/stonena7

Torn ACL in Dogs – Brief Overview

Before we dive into the discussion on CCL repair surgeries in dogs, let’s first break down the details of the cranial cruciate injury in itself. While you may hear the terms anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) used interchangeable when discussing your dog’s knee injury, it’s important to know that the CCL is the accurate term used to describe this impactful knee injury in our canine friends. The canine CCL plays a similar role as the human ACL in the knee, so your vet will likely use both terms to help you better understand what your dog is experiencing.

The CCL provides some of the most critical support in a dog’s knee, so when the ligament becomes injured in any way, this can have a massive impact on the dog’s quality of life. A dog can strain or tear their CCL while experiencing anything from a sudden twisting injury to landing on their leg with immense pressure, causing this important ligament to fail. Once a dog does injure their CCL, they can suffer from immense pain, inability to put weight on the leg, disinterest in physical activity, swelling of the knee joint, and many other uncomfortable complications of the knee region.

Due to how much a torn CCL can impact your dog’s quality of life, many veterinarians will suggest CCL surgery to restore full function of your dog’s limb. Cranial cruciate ligament surgery often offers the dog the best chance at a full recovery, and there are much fewer variables down the line as far as future joint complications and chronic pain. While surgery is often the preferred method of treatment for a dog with a torn CCL, there are more conservative routes that your vet can discuss with you as well. Other forms of treatment involve strict exercise restrictions, CCL knee braces for dogs, and different forms of physical therapy.

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My Dog Needs ACL Surgery – What Now?

Once your vet has determined that a CCL repair surgery is the best option for your canine friend, you may be curious as to what happens next. We want to help you be prepared each step of the way, so let’s break down what you can expect from the moment your vet recommends CCL surgery for your dog.

Strict Rest from the Moment the Injury Occurs

The first plan that you can begin to implement from the comfort of your home is strict exercise restriction. From the moment you notice your dog’s potential knee injury, you will want to keep them as calm as possible. Even if your dog is just experiencing a minor knee strain, unnecessary stress on the knee will only make things worse in the long run. The goal is to prevent any further progression of your dog’s CCL injury, and you can do this in a variety of ways leading up to your dog’s vet appointment.

The best way to exercise restrict your dog is by only letting them outside for short bathroom trips, keeping them on a leash when they go outside, preventing them from jumping on and off furniture, keeping them crate rested when you are not monitoring them, and making sure they have a supportive bed to rest on. If your dog is known for being rambunctious and will not rest properly, you can also speak with your vet about prescribed sedation.

Golden retriever resting in dog crate

One way to restrict your dog’s exercise when they’ve experienced a knee injury is to keep them crate rested.

©iStock.com/Christine McCann

Discuss Treatment Options with Your Vet in Detail

Once your vet diagnoses your dog’s torn CCL, it’s time to make sure that you understand everything that lies ahead for your pup. This means asking which type of surgery they will have, whether or not they need to be seen by a specialist, how long their recovery time will be, and what costs will be associated with their procedure. This is the time to determine whether or not surgery is the right option for you and your family, so you will want to ask as many questions as possible.

Schedule Your Dog’s Surgery

Once you have decided to pursue CCL surgery for your dog, you will want to schedule their surgery at your earliest convenience. Waiting too long for treatment can make their recovery a bit more complicated, and it can also increase the time in which they are in pain. It’s also important to keep in mind that many general practice veterinarians will not perform a torn ACL surgery, so they may need to refer you to an orthopedic specialist for your dog. If this is the case, your veterinary team will get you in touch with the necessary clinic.

In most situations, your dog will be able to receive their CCL repair surgery within 2-3 weeks of their injury. However, if you need to hold off on their surgery due to financial concerns, you can always wait as long as you need. Just be sure to keep your veterinary team in the loop, as this may alter their treatment plan.

Plan For 8-12 Weeks Of Recovery Minimum

No matter which type of CCL repair surgery your dog has, you can guarantee that they will require a minimum of 8 weeks of recovery. Some dogs will need up to 4 months of specialized care after their procedure, so it’s important to go into this with an open mind about the timeline. Your veterinarian will be able to offer you a general recovery time frame based on the extent of their injury, but every dog will vary in how they respond to surgery. It’s typically best to go into this situation with an understanding that your dog’s life will be drastically different for a brief period of time.

Types of Dog ACL Surgery: What it Fixes, Price, & Recovery

We know there is a lot of information to take in about your dog’s upcoming CCL surgery, so let’s put all the important details in one place. Below we will discuss the purpose, recovery, and price of the three most common torn CCL surgeries in dogs.

TPLO Surgery in Dogs Breakdown

A Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is the most common CCL repair procedure performed in dogs. This surgery will involve the vet removing the damaged ends of your dog’s cranial cruciate ligament, as well as any damaged portions of the meniscus within the knee. The veterinary surgeon will then rearrange the dog’s knee structure by making a small incision in the tibia, rotating the tibial plateau, and holding this new position in place with screws and plates. A TPLO is designed to transform the dog’s knee to the point of not having to rely on the CCL any longer, and it is known for offering long term success in most canine friends.

Recovery: Every dog will vary in terms of recovery time, but most dogs make a full recovery within 8-12 weeks of their TPLO procedure. Just be sure to plan for strict at home exercise restrictions during this timeframe, as well as any prescribed physical therapy your vet recommends.

Price: The average cost of a TPLO surgery in dogs is $3,000-$4,000, but giant breed dogs can cost up to $5,000.

TTA Surgery In Dogs Breakdown

A Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) in dogs is a procedure that is often used in medium sized dogs with a torn CCL, or those that require specialty care due to the shape of their tibia. A TTA will involve the veterinarian making a small incision in the tibial tuberosity of the injured limb, and then rearranging the tibia to form a new desired position. The goal is to align the tibia with the ligaments of the patella, and to then use screws and plates to lock this new knee position into place.

Recovery: Every dog will vary in terms of standard recovery time, but most dogs make a full recovery within 8-12 weeks of their TTA procedure. Just be sure to plan for strict at home exercise restrictions during this timeframe, as well as any prescribed physical therapy your vet recommends.

Price: The average cost of a TTA surgery in dogs is often more expensive than a TPLO, and can range in price from $4,000-$6,000 on average.

Lateral Suture Repair in Dogs Breakdown

The Lateral Suture Technique (or Extracapsular Repair), is a CCL repair surgery that is most often performed in dogs under 35 pounds. This procedure relies on an anchor technique that will help to stabilize the canine knee moving forward. The veterinarian will place a suture on the outside of the dog’s knee joint, pass the suture around the backside of the femur, and then feed the suture into a hole in the tibial tuberosity. Once this process is complete and the anchor is formed, the body will form scar tissue that will lead to the stronger formation of the knee joint over time.

Recovery: Every dog will vary in terms of standard recovery time, but most dogs make a full recovery within 8-12 weeks of their lateral suture repair procedure. Just be sure to plan for strict at home exercise restrictions during this timeframe, as well as any prescribed physical therapy your vet recommends.

Price: The average cost of a lateral suture repair surgery in dogs often ranges from $1,500-$3,000.

Dog lying on operating table

Surgery is often the preferred method of treatment when it comes to a torn CCL in dogs.

©iStock.com/gpointstudio

Which ACL Surgery is Best for My Dog?

While there are a variety of options when it comes to your dog’s torn CCL surgery, it’s important to keep in mind that your vet will always guide you in the best direction based on their injury. Your veterinary team will understand the details of your dog’s case and the specific obstacles they may encounter, and they can make the best call based on this information.

At the end of the day, the only decisions you will need to consider for your family are the financial aspects of their treatment, how you will adjust to their exercise restrictions, and how to keep up with any follow up care they may require. We understand that being informed about your dog’s surgery details are helpful, but you can rest assured that your vet will guide you in choosing the best treatment approach for your beloved companion. When in doubt about what comes next for your dog’s CCL treatment, ask as many questions as possible!

Final Thoughts

A torn CCL in dogs is a complicated injury that requires specialty care moving forward. Surgery is often the preferred method of treatment when it comes to a torn CCL in dogs, as it is often comes with fewer complications and less joint breakdown in the future. We encourage you to review the surgery information we discussed in detail above, and to use this knowledge to ask your vet as many questions as possible about your dog’s upcoming treatment!

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

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About the Author

Amber LaRock is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics surrounding pet health and behavior. Amber is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with 12 years of experience in the field, and she holds a degree in veterinary technology that she earned in 2015. A resident of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amber enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and taking care of her two cats.

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Sources
  1. VCA animal hospitals, Available here: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cruciate-ligament-rupture-in-dogs
  2. VCA animal hospitals, Available here: https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/cranial-cruciate-ligament-repair-tibial-plateau-leveling-osteotomy-tplo
  3. Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service, Available here: https://willows.uk.net/specialist-services/pet-health-information/orthopaedics/tta-surgery-for-cruciate-ligament-rupture