Dog ACL Tear Surgery Cost: Everything You Need to Know

ACL tears in dogs are a common orthopedic issue. Just like humans, a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) can severely limit a dog’s mobility and cause significant pain. But how much does the surgery cost?

Key Takeaways:

  1. Research and Shop Around: Costs can vary significantly from one vet to another, so get multiple quotes and consider traveling a bit further if it means more affordable care.
  2. Pet Insurance: Investing in pet insurance can help offset some costs, but check to see if ACL surgeries are covered, as some policies may exclude it or require additional coverage.
  3. Alternative Treatments: While surgery can be the most effective solution for many dogs, discuss with your vet about nonsurgical treatments like braces or physical therapy.
  4. Recovery is Crucial: After investing in the surgery, ensure your dog follows a proper recovery regimen. This might include restricted movement, physical therapy, and regular check-ups.

What is an ACL Tear in Dogs?

Before we discuss the costs, it’s important to understand what an ACL tear is. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the key ligaments in a dog’s knee, responsible for stabilizing the joint. When this ligament is torn, the dog may limp, show signs of pain, or avoid using the affected leg.

How Much Does Dog ACL Surgery Cost?

Based on various data points gathered from online forums and veterinary clinics, we’ve collated the average cost of ACL surgery for dogs into the table below:

Year Minimum Cost Average Cost Maximum Cost
2017 $995 $2,000 $4,000
2021 $2,500 $3,250 $4,500
2022 $2,500 $5,500 $6,000
2023 $2,500 $4,250 $6,000

Note: The costs can vary based on geographic location, the specific veterinary clinic, the type of surgery performed, and the dog’s overall health and age.

Factors Influencing the Cost

Type of Procedure: There are different methods to treat ACL tears. Common surgeries include lateral suture repair, TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy), and TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement). The latter two are generally more expensive.

Geographical Location: Costs can vary widely depending on where you live. Urban areas or regions with higher living standards might have higher veterinary costs.

Clinic vs. Hospital: Specialty hospitals or renowned orthopedic vets might charge more than a local vet clinic.

Post-Surgical Care: Physical therapy, medications, and follow-up visits can add to the overall expense.


ACL surgery in dogs, while costly, can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life. By understanding the potential costs and factors that influence them, dog owners can make informed decisions that best suit their furry friend’s needs and their budget. Remember, always prioritize the well-being of your pet and consult with professionals before making any medical decisions.

FAQs on Dog ACL Surgery

1. Are there any alternatives to surgery for a torn ACL in dogs?

Yes, while surgery often provides the most comprehensive solution, alternatives include:

  • Bracing: Dog knee braces can offer support to the affected leg, allowing partial mobility and healing over time.
  • Physical Therapy: Supervised exercises and treatments can improve joint mobility and reduce pain.
  • Weight Management: Overweight dogs exert more pressure on their joints. Bringing your dog to a healthy weight can alleviate some of the strain on a torn ACL.

2. What are the potential risks or complications of ACL surgery?

As with any surgery, complications can arise, including:

  • Infection: Though rare, surgical sites can get infected and may require additional treatments.
  • Implant Issues: If the surgery involves implants, they might shift or break, necessitating a follow-up procedure.
  • Decreased Range of Motion: In some cases, dogs might not regain full mobility in the operated leg.
  • Re-injury: Especially in active dogs, there’s a risk of re-injuring the same ACL or injuring the ACL in the other leg.

3. How long is the recovery period post-surgery?

Recovery can vary based on the dog’s age, health, and type of procedure. Generally, initial recovery, where the dog starts to use the leg again, occurs within a few weeks. Full recovery, with regained strength and mobility, typically takes 3 to 6 months.

4. Will my dog need medications post-surgery?

Yes, most dogs will be prescribed:

  • Pain Relievers: To manage post-operative pain.
  • Anti-inflammatories: To reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Antibiotics: To prevent potential infections.

Always follow your vet’s dosage instructions carefully.

5. How can I help my dog recover post-surgery?

  • Restricted Movement: Limit your dog’s activities. Consider using a playpen or a small room to confine them initially.
  • Physical Therapy: As advised by your vet, gentle exercises can aid in recovery.
  • Regular Check-ups: Schedule follow-up visits with your vet to ensure everything is healing correctly.
  • Comfort: Soft bedding and plenty of affection can make your dog’s recovery more comfortable.

6. Are certain breeds more prone to ACL tears?

While any dog can suffer an ACL tear, some breeds have higher predispositions, including Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers. Additionally, overweight dogs, regardless of breed, are at a higher risk.

7. What’s the success rate for canine ACL surgeries?

Most ACL surgeries have a high success rate, with over 85% of dogs regaining near-normal to complete function of the affected leg. However, the success can vary based on the type of procedure, the dog’s age, weight, and overall health.

8. How will I know if the surgery was successful?

Signs of a successful surgery include:

  • Improved Mobility: Your dog should start using the operated leg more frequently within weeks.
  • Reduced Pain: Less whimpering, faster movement, and a better appetite can indicate decreased pain.
  • Increased Strength: Over time, the operated leg should show improved strength, especially after physical therapy sessions.

9. How do vets diagnose an ACL tear?

The diagnosis typically involves:

  • Physical Examination: Vets will assess the movement and stability of the knee joint.
  • Drawer Test: A common method where the vet checks for abnormal movement in the knee.
  • X-rays: While an X-ray won’t show the ligament itself, it can reveal changes in the joint that suggest an ACL tear.
  • MRI: In rare cases, an MRI might be employed to get a clearer image of the ligament.

10. What’s the difference between TPLO, TTA, and traditional repair methods?

  • TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy): This method changes the angle of the tibia to stabilize the knee joint. It’s particularly recommended for larger, active dogs.
  • TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement): Like TPLO, TTA modifies the knee’s biomechanics but through advancing the tibial tuberosity.
  • Traditional Repair: Techniques like Lateral Suture Stabilization use materials like suture threads to stabilize the joint. This is often suited for smaller dogs or those with less active lifestyles.

11. Is it common for a dog to tear the ACL in the other leg after surgery?

While not inevitable, many dogs (up to 40-60%) that tear one ACL will eventually injure the other, especially if they’re overweight or overly active post-surgery.

12. How can I prevent my other dog(s) from experiencing an ACL tear?

Prevention strategies include:

  • Weight Management: Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces stress on the joints.
  • Regular Exercise: Consistent, moderate exercise strengthens the muscles around the knee.
  • Avoid Sudden Movements: Prevent activities that involve rapid turns or jumps, especially on slippery surfaces.

13. Is age a determining factor in the surgery’s success?

While younger dogs tend to recover faster and more fully, age isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. The dog’s overall health, weight, and activity level play more critical roles in determining surgical success and recovery.

14. Can supplements benefit a dog post-ACL surgery?

Some vets recommend supplements like:

  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: For joint health and cartilage support.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: To reduce inflammation.
  • Turmeric and Green Lipped Mussel: Known for their natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Always consult with your vet before introducing any supplements to your dog’s diet.

15. Will my dog ever be 100% post-surgery?

Many dogs regain near-normal or even full function post-surgery. However, factors like the dog’s age, weight, health, and the surgery type can affect the outcome. Regular physical therapy and proper post-op care significantly increase the chances of a successful recovery.

16. Do small dog breeds require surgery for an ACL tear?

While large breeds often need surgery due to their weight and activity levels, small breeds might sometimes be managed conservatively with rest, weight control, and physical therapy. Nonetheless, it’s essential to consult a vet to determine the best course of action for your specific pet.

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