How much does dog ACL surgery cost?
Ashburn, VA

How much does dog ACL surgery cost?

Ashburn, VA

How much does dog ACL surgery cost?

$1,000 – $6,000average cost for surgery alone
$1,420 – $8,100average total cost

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$1,000 – $6,000 average cost for surgery alone

$1,420 – $8,100 average total cost


Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Ellen Russell, DVM, MPH
Written by
Ellen Russell, DVM, MPH
Edited by
Kristen Cramer
Fact-checked by
Tara Farmer

Dog ACL surgery cost

Dog ACL surgery costs $1,000 to $6,000 on average for the procedure alone. Together with the cost of diagnosis, pre-surgical lab work, post-surgery care, and optional post-surgery physical therapy, the total cost ranges from $1,420 to $8,100. In dogs, the ACL is called the cranial cruciate ligament or CCL.

Dog ACL surgery cost
Procedure Average Cost
Surgery cost (one knee) $1,000 – $6,000
Initial visit to diagnose the injury
(exam, sedation, x-rays)
$270 – $600
Pre-surgical lab work $100 – $200
Post-surgery care
(medications & recheck appointments)
$50 – $300
Post-surgery physical therapy* $0 – $1,000
Total cost $1,420 – $8,100

*Optional

Surgery repairs the injured knee after your dog tears an ACL ligament. ACL tears in dogs cause pain and limping in their affected leg and can cause significant arthritis in their leg as they age if left untreated.

What is a dog ACL or CCL?

The ACL is a ligament in the knee that helps stabilize the knee joint when running or walking. When the ACL tears, the tibia (shinbone) moves too far forward in relation to the femur (thighbone) and rotates in painful ways, making walking difficult and painful.

In dogs, the ACL ligament is known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL or CrCL). Dogs have two CCLs—one in each knee in their back legs. Many people use the terms ACL and CCL interchangeably to refer to a dog's knee ligament.

Dog ACL / CCL surgery techniques

Veterinary surgeons use three common surgical techniques used to repair the ACL/CCL in dogs. The specific surgery recommended for your dog will depend on their individual case.

Dog ACL / CCL surgery cost by technique
ACL / CCL surgery technique Average cost
Lateral suture / ELSS
(extracapsular repair)
$1,000 – $2,500
TPLO
(tibial plateau leveling osteotomy)
$2,500 – $6,000
TTA
(tibial tuberosity advancement)
$2,500 – $6,000

The TPLO and TTA surgery techniques are more advanced and expensive than the lateral suture technique. However, the lateral suture technique may not be suitable for all dogs and is generally only recommended for dogs under 35 lbs.

Some general practice veterinarians perform dog ACL surgeries. More commonly, your regular veterinarian will refer you to a board-certified veterinary surgeon for your dog’s surgery.

Unfortunately, nothing can fix the ACL itself. Once it is torn, it will remain so for the rest of your dog’s life. However, surgery significantly helps stabilize the knee joint to relieve pain and limit the progression of arthritis.

A dog with an orthotic for an injured ACL / CCL (knee ligament).
A dog with an orthotic for an injured ACL / CCL (knee ligament).
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Symptoms of dog ACL injury

The most common symptom of ACL injury in dogs is limping on one of their rear legs. The limp usually starts immediately and may occur when playing or running around. Occasionally, dogs may suddenly cry out in pain when they hurt their knee, but this is not always true.

The limp can range in severity, from your dog not wanting to put any weight on the affected leg to a less noticeable, mild, or intermittent limp.

In addition to limping, other signs of ACL injury in dogs include:

  • Swollen knee

  • Reluctance to walk or play

  • Lifting the affected leg when standing

  • Putting the affected leg to the side when sitting

  • Clicking sound in the back leg when walking

How are ACL injuries diagnosed?

ACL injuries are the most common cause of rear leg limping in dogs of all breeds and sizes. If you notice your dog limping on one of their back legs, take them to a veterinarian for a complete physical exam.

After an initial examination, if your veterinarian suspects a possible ACL injury, they will likely recommend:

  • Sedating your dog to perform an orthopedic exam

  • X-rays of the affected leg to help rule out other causes of limping, such as arthritis or fracture

These diagnostics are usually sufficient to diagnose an ACL injury in dogs.

How do dogs hurt their ACL?

Dogs can tear their ACL from an acute injury, like running or jumping when playing. However, some dogs’ ACLs will weaken over time and eventually tear without any significant injury. Any dog can tear its ACL, but certain factors can increase their risk.

Weight

Being overweight is the most significant risk factor for ACL injuries in dogs. Extra weight puts increased stress on the knee joint, making it more prone to sudden injury or degrading over time. Overweight, out-of-shape dogs commonly hurt their ACLs when they suddenly do strenuous exercise they are not used to.

Breed

Certain breeds have a higher risk of injuring their ACL, including:

  • Labrador Retriever

  • Golden Retriever

  • Rottweiler

  • Staffordshire Terrier

  • German Shepherd

  • Newfoundland

  • Cane Corso

  • St. Bernard

  • Bichon Frise

Dog ACL surgery FAQs

Can a dog heal from a torn ACL without surgery?

In some instances, surgery may not be possible for your dog. If surgery is not performed for an ACL injury, you can expect your dog to develop severe arthritis in the affected knee. Arthritis can lead to significant mobility problems and pain, especially as your dog ages.

What are the risks of ACL surgery in dogs?

Possible complications depend on the type of surgery your dog has. In general, the most common complications include implant or incision infection, implant failure, tibia (shinbone) fracture, and continued limping and pain in the affected leg due to the development of arthritis.

The risk of complications significantly increases if your dog’s activity is not adequately restricted after surgery.

Does pet insurance cover dog ACL surgery?

Every pet insurance policy covers different illnesses. ACL injuries are widespread in dogs, and it should be clear when reading your policy whether your pet insurance will cover surgery. Generally, you must purchase pet insurance before your dog’s ACL injury, or the insurance will consider an ACL tear a pre-existing condition and not cover surgery.

ACL injuries are one of the best reasons to purchase pet insurance for your dog when they are young. Pet insurance costs $35 to $75 per month, depending on the plan type and your dog's age and breed.

Can I prevent my dog from injuring their ACL?

In some cases, you cannot prevent your dog from injuring their ACL. The most important things you can do at home to avoid injury are:

  • Keep your dog at an appropriate weight.

  • Regularly exercise your dog to keep them in good physical condition.

Recent evidence has also shown that delaying spaying or neutering your dog until they are older may decrease the incidence of ACL injury. Ask your veterinarian about the ideal time to spay or neuter your pet.

What is the post-op care and recovery after dog ACL surgery?

Recovery after dog ACL surgery takes about 6 to 8 weeks. The time it takes to return to regular activity depends on the surgical technique used, your dog’s age and body weight, and any other conditions your dog may already have, such as arthritis.

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  • Rest: Most dogs require at least two weeks of strict rest and exercise restriction after ACL surgery. After this period, activity may be gradually increased over 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Pain medication: Most veterinarians recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), such as carprofen (Rimadyl), before and after surgery. Other pain medications, such as gabapentin, may also be used.

  • Recheck appointments: Your veterinarian will likely recommend recheck appointments at different intervals after surgery. In some instances, post-surgery X-rays are also taken to ensure the bone is healing correctly. Dog X-rays cost $150 to $400.

  • Physical therapy: Post-surgery physical therapy with a licensed canine rehabilitation therapist is optional. However, it significantly increases the chance of an excellent surgical outcome for dogs with ACL injuries. Physical therapy may include passive range-of-motion exercises, laser therapy, massage, or even underwater treadmill sessions.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

Ask your veterinarian these important questions to ensure you understand the ACL surgery procedure and recovery process:

  • Is ACL surgery suitable for my dog?

  • How will ACL surgery help my dog?

  • Which ACL surgery is best for my dog?

  • Is my dog’s weight putting them at increased risk for an ACL injury?

  • What is the recovery process after my dog's ACL surgery?

  • Should my dog do physical therapy after their ACL surgery?

  • Should my dog take joint supplements?


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