ACL Surgery for Dogs

By Jelena Woehr

Four options exist for treatment of a partial or complete tear in a dog's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The cost of ACL surgery for dogs ranges from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand dollars, depending upon the type of procedure chosen. Choices for repairing a torn ACL include conservative management, repair with conventional stabilization surgery, repair with tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and repair with tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA).

Conservative Management

The conservative management strategy involves careful and thorough restriction from physical activity for a period of at least eight weeks in order to observe the dog's soundness and determine if the injury is able to heal without surgery. The crate rest and severely restricted activity required for this option is stressful for the dog and owner. However, there's no charge for rest, making it an attractive option for pet owners capable of restricting their dog's activity for a long time. If a dog can recover without surgery, he will show at least some improvement within eight weeks.

Conventional Surgery

The conventional surgery to repair a torn ACL in dogs involves stabilizing the joint with surgical suture material. The procedure involves drilling small holes in the dog's bones and inserting a stabilizing agent that holds the joint firmly in place. Over time, scar tissue will form around the joint, stabilizing it permanently. This surgery is typically the least expensive of the surgical repairs, although the diagnostic procedures that may be necessary in order to diagnose a torn ACL are comparable across methods.

TPLO Surgery

TPLO, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, is a surgical procedure that changes the angle of the tibial plateau by cutting the bones in the dog's leg with a special saw. The damaged ligament is removed and a metal plate is installed, allowing the joint to function fairly normally in most cases after healing. Serious side effects occur in some cases, including complete failure of the surgical procedure. However, many veterinary surgeons still consider TPLO the "gold standard" in treatment for a ruptured ACL. This procedure may cost several thousand dollars for average-sized dogs. Giant-breed dogs may also require a greater amount of anesthesia and additional time spent in surgery, increasing the cost of such surgery for these breeds.

TTA Surgery

Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) is a surgical alternative to TPLO surgery. This procedure is somewhat less invasive than tibial plateau leveling osteotomy. TTA still involves cutting into bones in a dog's leg, but in TTA surgery a non-weight bearing area of the bone is cut. The bone is then moved to change the relationship between the patellar tendon and the tibial plateau angle. The cost of TTA surgery is comparable to that of TPLO surgery.

Additional Costs

The cost to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament is not limited to the price of surgery. The injury must first be diagnosed, which may require X-rays and/or an ultrasound. After surgery, the dog will need pain medication, follow-up visits to the vet and at least two sets of x-rays to ensure that the joint is healing correctly. All told, the total cost of treating a dog's torn ACL with TPLO or TTA surgery is likely to be over $4,000. Total costs with conventional surgery are likely to come to $1,000 or more. These totals may vary depending on the region of the country in which you live and on your dog's personal needs. Complications, length of hospital stay, medical history and other variables will also have an effect on the price.