Understanding An ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament ) Injury In Dogs

Beagle Tracks -default_2_edited-1Understanding what an ACL injury is, how it happens and the ways that it is repaired is extremely important when caring for a dog with this injury. In this article, I’m going to be my best to explain what you can expect doing this trying time.

What is a torn ACL injury?

Simply put, a torn ACL is where the Anterior Cruciate Ligament has ruptured, thus allowing the tibia and femur to move freely against each other. It is said that something as simple as twisting the wrong way can cause a tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. A dog that is overweight is at a higher risk for a torn ACL injury, though it can and does occur in very healthy dogs.

Signs and Symptoms of a torn ACL:

Like people, each dog is different, the signs and symptoms will vary depending on the animal. However, common symptoms are said to be swelling of the joint, limping (possibly while holding the paw off the ground) and signs of pain. These signs may come and go, usually returning after activity.

If you suspect your dog may have some sort of ACL injury (or any injury or illness for that matter) it is important that your seek vet care as soon as possible.

How does the vet determine if your dog has a torn ACL?

Diagnosing a torn ACL is a fairly simple process. Your vet may perform a hands on exam while looking for something called the “Drawers sign”. It is called this because while the doctor is applying pressure to the tibia and femur they may feel the bones move in the same motion of a drawer in a cabinet. If your vet suspects that your dog does indeed have an ACL injury, they may order x-rays to confirm the injury and to determine the extent of the injury.


Now that you know your dog has an ACL injury, you of course are wondering what can be done to correct it. There are several possibilities, though they all require time, effort and in most case money.

If the ACL is only partly torn, it is possible that with the right medications and proper rest your dog maybe able to heal without surgery. However, even some partial tears require surgery to repair.

However, if the ACL is completely torn your dog will probably need surgery. If that is the case there are three types of surgery. The conventional, TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy), and the TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement).

In the Conventional surgery small holes drilled into the dogs bones and a material much like fishing line is used to secure the joint. Over time scar tissue will form around joint stabilizing it. It is said that from diagnosis to full recovery you can expect the conventional surgery to cost about $1000 USD.

The Tibial tuberosity advancement or TTA surgery involves the surgeon cutting into the bones of the dogs leg. The surgeon will cut a none-weight bearing area of the bone and the bone is move the change the way the patellar tendon relates to the tibial plateau angle. It is said that from diagnosis to full recovery you can expect the TTA surgery to cost around $3000 USD.

The last and most invasive is the Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy or the TPLO. This is considered the “Gold standard” of ACL surgery’s. In this procedure, the bones in the dogs legs are cut using a saw — the  ligament is removed  and a metal plate in inserted which allows the joint to return to normal function in most cases. However there are cases where some serious side effects have occurred, including complete failure of the surgery. It is said that from diagnosis to full recovery you can expect the TPLO surgery to cost around $3000 USD.

Keep in mind the costs are simply estimates and will vary depending on your Veterinarian. In addition, the stated costs include the entire process from diagnosis to recovery, and include medications, x-rays, the surgery itself, after care and more.

In a later post, I will post a running tab of the actual cost of Daisy’s ACL injury and will update it along the way.

I should mention that, some people believe that veterinarians suggest surgery far to often, and in some cases surgery can be avoided.

On a personal note, I take Daisy to her vet because I trust them 100%, so if they say she needs it, then I whole heartedly believe she does.


What is the prognosis for your dog after surgery? Well, it seems that for the most part dogs that have to undergo treatment for a torn ACL return to fairly normal, if not (nearly) perfect function. Of course there are risks with any surgery, but if you follow the Veterinarian’s instructions you can expect your baby to heal within 6-12 weeks depending on who you ask. You should expect to have several follow-up visits with your vet to check on your dogs progress.

Has your dog had to under go ACL surgery? If so, which procedure did you choose? How much did it cost and how long was the recovery time? Share your thoughts below.

Daisy’s Momma


2 thoughts on “Understanding An ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament ) Injury In Dogs

  1. a friend of mine took her dog in for surgery…two days later her other leg failed and the surgery was a complete failure…..there is little on the web of failures….perhaps more should speak out. She is very fearful she will have to put the dog down….$3,000 later. My advice, perhaps owners should look at the non-surgical solution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s