Everything to Know About Dog ACL Surgery | Direct Benefits

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Dog ACL Surgery

If you notice your dog limping or having difficulty standing up from a sitting or lying down position or muscle loss, or if your pup appears to be in pain when walking or moving, it could be an ACL injury. Don’t ignore these symptoms!

Your dog cannot vocalize his or her pain, so if you suspect something is wrong, take him or her to the veterinarian as soon as possible. This injury can be extremely painful and will only get worse over time.

What is an ACL injury?

You may be familiar with the acute cruciate ligament (ACL). Known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs, it’s responsible for stabilizing the knee joint, and injuries can significantly limit movement and are extremely painful.

ACL injuries can be sudden, brought on by a fast movement, known as an acute injury. If your pet was completely fine, and you quickly notice he or she is walking on three legs, this is likely an acute injury. Chronic ACL injuries occur when the ligament slowly degenerates over time. In both instances, the ligament breaks down, tears, or completely ruptures. 

While the risk factors for a sudden ACL injury are largely unknown, dogs with existing knee conditions, like medial patellar luxations, are more susceptible, as are certain breeds including:

  • Rottweiler
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Newfoundlands

Dog ACL surgery

If upon evaluation your vet determines your dog has in fact sustained an ACL injury, surgery will likely be recommended. Surgical intervention is most effective at alleviating the pain associated with the injury. For dogs under 50 pounds, the lateral suture technique, or extracapsular repair, is most common — though heavier dogs may undergo this surgery as well. In this procedure, a hole is first drilled into the front part of the tibia.

From there, a single plastic fiber line called a monofilament is looped around a small bone on the backside of the femur, through the hole in the tibia, then clamped together with a stainless steel clip to re-stabilize the knee joint.

Other surgical options include:

  • Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO): The tibial plateau is cut and rotated to alter the angle of the knee
  • Tibial Tuberocity Advancement (TTA): A linear cut is made across the front of the tibia, and a bone spacer and steel plate is placed to change bone structure.
  • Tight Rope Technique: Small holes are drilled in the knee, and “Fibertape” is used to thread the knee in various directions.

Which treatment option is best for your dog? Your vet will suggest one of the procedures above based on your pet’s age, size, and demeanor. 

Dog ACL surgery cost

Prepare to fork over a significant chunk of change for your dog’s ACL surgery. TPLO and TTA will likely cost between $2,000 and $3,000 — per knee — and that cost will increase even more if you select a board-certified surgeon to perform the procedure. The lateral suture technique typically costs slightly less, but you can still expect your bill to be over $1,000.

Following the operation, your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications and recommend dietary supplements, some of which your pet may need to take throughout the rest of his or her life. These, along with post-op rehabilitation to rebuild muscle and minimize weight gain, will accrue additional costs in the months and years following the ACL surgery.

To assist with these high costs, most pet owners opt for some form of pet insurance. Most insurance carriers and policies cover treatment for acute ACL injuries — as long as you purchase before your dog gets hurt. Some may not cover treatment for chronic injuries, or for dogs who have pre-existing conditions that may have contributed to the injury.

Ongoing care can save you 

Preventing an ACL injury in your dog is difficult, as there are typically no warning signs, and direct causes are still unclear. If your dog’s breed is more prone, keep an eye on their gait and don’t forget to take them in for regular veterinary checkups. When caught early, problems can be resolved before they become more extensive and more expensive to treat.

Regardless of breed, don’t miss your pet’s annual exam, and look into pet insurance before your dog gets sick or hurt. Run a free instant quote to customize a pet insurance policy today.