Pet parents with dogs or anyone researching pet insurance – especially sports fans – will be well aware of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. This bane of athletes’ careers is also common among dogs, with some breeds being more vulnerable than others – which is why it gets mentioned a lot when it comes to pet insurance.
But how much do you know about pet insurance and cruciate ligament injuries? We hope to answer all your questions here.
What’s a torn ACL in a dog?
An ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury in a dog is a tear or rupture of the ligament that stabilizes the knee joint. Its role is to prevent excessive movement, so an injury to this ligament, if left untreated, can cause pain and lameness in the affected leg.
Symptoms of an ACL injury in a dog can include swelling and pain in the knee, lameness or difficulty using the affected leg. Also look out for your dog becoming less active or being less inclined to go up stairs, steep hills or jump.
If you suspect that your dog requires emergency care due to an ACL injury, talk to your vet ASAP, who may refer you to an orthopedic specialist.
Can ACL injuries in dogs be repaired?
Don’t worry, the answer to this is overwhelmingly positive – as long as you spot the injury and get professional help.
Some cruciate ligament injuries can be healed with good old rest and relaxation. They will need to be immobilized – under the guidance of your veterinarian – possibly with a leg brace, which could drive an active dog crazy, but it’s the easiest and cheapest remedy if the injury allows it. Medications and supplements might also be needed. You’re looking at around 12-16 weeks for the ACL to heal.
Surgery is very common in treating ACL injuries in dogs and is usually the most effective remedy. The specific type of surgery required will depend on the severity of the injury and the overall health of the dog, but there are two standard options. Warning, this may make you feel squeamish.
A tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) involves cutting and reshaping the bone of the tibia (the larger bone in the lower leg) to change the angle at which the ACL is placed. This helps to stabilize the knee joint and reduce stress on the ligament. A tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) procedure involves moving the attachment point of the patellar tendon to reduce strain on the ACL.
Surgical repair of an ACL injury in a dog will likely require general anesthesia and a lengthy recovery period, during which your dog will need to rest and go through physical therapy to rebuild strength and mobility. Talk to your vet about whether it’s the best option for your dog – all surgery carries risk and some animals are more vulnerable than others.
How much does ACL surgery on dogs cost?
The cost of ACL surgery for dogs can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on several factors. These include the type of surgery being performed, the age and size of the dog, the location of the surgery, and the overall health of the dog. Typically, the cost for TPLO surgery is around $7,000.
The surgery itself is just one item on the bill, though, albeit the most expensive. There are also costs associated with post-surgical care, pain medications and rehabilitation. Recovery can be a long process and mobility devices can be costly without pet insurance. Always discuss your options during those important vet visits, to make the best decision for your dog’s health.
Does pet insurance cover ACL surgery?
Again, the answer is a good one. Most pet insurance covers ACL surgery for dogs, as long as it isn’t a pre-existing condition (pet showed symptoms prior to purchase or during the waiting period). The major difference is that you’ll often get longer waiting periods – the amount of time between you taking out a policy and the coverage kicking in. With Paw Protect, for example, there is a standard six-month waiting period for all dogs before they’re covered for orthopedic conditions, but you can reduce this to 14 days by following the Orthopedic Exam and Waiver Process.