Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

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What happens when my dog tears their ACL?

ACL tear refers to a partial or complete tear of your dog's anterior cruciate ligament; this ligament connects the back of the femur to the front of the tibia within the stifle (the technical term for a dog's knee).

This is a very painful injury for your pet, and it will result in immediate lameness of the affected leg. Most ACL tears in dogs are caused by rotational activities (such as fetching) or by the dog being overweight, putting their joints under strain carrying the extra weight, or a combination of the two.

Molly 2 year old labrador - recovery post Zlig surgery
Diagnosing ACL tears in dogs

A complete ACL tear is diagnosed during a physical exam of your pet. When we feel any tibial movement relative to the femur, this instability in the stifle (knee) confirms an ACL tear. This abnormal stifle movement is called a cranial draw sign.

At MPS, we routinely do not perform x-rays as we feel these are unnecessary for diagnosing most cases of an ACL tear in dogs. X-rays can show evidence of an ACL tear such has joint effusion (fluid swelling and inflammation) and arthritic changes. However these changes are not specific for an ACL tear. A positive cranial draw sign is indicative of an ACL rupture.

When there is an absence of stifle instability and lack of pain in the back, hock or hip, the problem generally lies within the stifle joint. These cases are usually ligament strains or partial ACL tears. With rest (either cage or tied up), weight loss where necessary and gentle walking, performed over two to four weeks; more than half of these injured dogs may never require surgery at all.

Cruciate Ligament Surgery

Unfortunately, surgery is necessary for dogs who have sustained a complete ACL tear to restore function to the affected limb/s.

There are several surgical options to treat ACL tears in dogs. At Melbourne Pet Surgery, we specialise in three ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) stabilisation techniques:
Zlig (artificial ACL replacement), Modified Marquet Procedure (MMP) which is a type of TTA osteotomy and Cora Based TPLO (CBLO)

NOTE – There is NO gold standard. There is no right or wrong procedure. All modern techniques work in the majority of cases, but none are perfect. The option chosen depends on owner preferences depending on their situation.

Click on each ACL surgical technique below to learn more about what is involved and the expected recovery time and costs of each procedure.

Cost of ACL surgery for dogs

At Melbourne Pet Surgery, depending on the technique you choose, the cost of canine ACL surgery will range from $2,750 to $4,000.

To stabilise a torn ACL in dogs At MPS, we aim to provide ACL surgery at a price more pet owners can afford, so fewer dogs need to suffer from this debilitating injury.

We keep our surgery costs significantly below what other hospitals charge by having a lower margin but higher volume, allowing us to pass on savings to our clients. Most other practices may only perform 10 to 20 ACL surgeries per year; however, we do more than 250 annually.

Aftercare

Recovery and aftercare

Depending on the ACL procedure you choose recovery and aftercare may alter slightly and you will be given specific post-operative guidance for at-home recovery.

In general, your dog will need to be in a crate for a minimum of 4 weeks after surgery. From day one, we encourage dogs to start walking– we see the best results when pet owners put in the effort to help their dogs rehabilitate following their procedure

We recommend walking your dog several times per day, increasing the length of the walk from three to five minutes at a time in the first few weeks to 20 to 30 minutes four to six weeks after surgery.

In most cases, dogs will regain 80-90 per cent of their functionality after an ACL stabilisation procedure in just four weeks. Some patients will go from completely lame to mobile the day after treatment, and by 8 to 10 weeks post ACL surgery, your dog will be able to spend some time off-leash, with full off-leash play expected twelve weeks later.

What if I don't want ACL surgery?

If your dog's ACL is completely torn, the only option is cruciate ligament surgery.

When your dog's ACL is torn, their knee becomes unstable, resulting in bone and cartilage wear and eventually, painful arthritis.

Bone spurs, or osteophytes, can form in as little as one to three weeks, causing chronic leg pain and loss of joint motion. This is particularly common in larger breeds.

At this point, surgery can only stop or slow the process; it cannot be reversed. We understand that treatment is costly, so we have done everything to keep cruciate ligament repair costs as low as possible. If your canine companion has a torn ACL, surgery is required.

Cora Based TPLO (CBLO)

CBLO combines the benefits of plateau levelling and tibial tuberosity procedures for faster recovery and is suitable for all dog sizes and lowers fracture risk in small dogs.

More info

Modified Marquet Procedure (MMP)

The Modified Marquet Procedure (MMP) is a type of Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) osteotomy that alters how the stifle functions to better deal with a torn ACL.

More info

Zlig

Zlig is a highly effective procedure that directly stabilises the ACL using an artificial implant to replace the torn ACL, and this is our current preferred technique.

More info
Dr. Scot Plummer

Meet Dr. Scot Plummer

BVSC(HONS)

Dr Plummer has always had a deep love for animals and graduated from the University of Queensland with Honours. in his Bachelor of Veterinary Science. After the success of his Brisbane clinic, Dr Plummer has launched Melbourne Pet Surgery with the goal of lowering the cost of high-quality pet care for all Melburnians.

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