Treating a Torn/Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) (Crucial Ligament) in Dogs (ACL)

I noticed that I was receiving a lot of searches for Cranial Crucial Ligament, that’s why it’s in the title. The proper term is Cranial Cruciate Ligament, however I thought I’d try to help out all the people who were searching for Crucial Ligament. Just acting as the Good Samaritan of the internet! Thanks to all the response I’ve gotten, I now have a dedicated site for this topic – visit Dog Knee Ligament Injuries.

So we were out at the beach the other day, and our dog Roxy (a 5 1/2 year old American Pit Bull Terrier) came up limping. She’s had slight hip problems in the past, so we took her home, let her rest and decided to see how she was doing the following day. The following day was the same, rear leg just dangling, unable to put any pressure on it, so we took her into the “Doggie ER”. Side note – if your dog isn’t suffering from a life threatening condition, don’t bother with a Pet Emergency Clinic – you’ll see why. At the ER, they decided to give her X-Rays to see if her ligament was torn – those of you who have ever done ligament damage to yourself probably realize that ligaments cannot be seen in X-Rays, you need an MRI for that! So in addition to X-Rays ($400) our dog had to be sedated, so that the doctor could “aggressively manipulate the joint” to test for instability… can we do this in the first place next time??? Anyways, the conclusion at the ER was that the dog had ruptured her Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL, or the doggie ACL) and we were then advised to take our dog to its primary care veterinarian in 1-3 days. We unfortunately didn’t have a primary care vet, but we came across a local clinic that has a specialist fly in once a month to perform CCL surgeries, and it was our lucky day, because the day that we took our dog in, the doctor had another “patient” cancel, so he had one opening and he performed the surgery yesterday, and I picked our dog up today. I’ll follow this article up with updates on the dogs status & treatment, but for the time being, I’ve put together some information below about CCL injuries and surgical repair procedures.

Continue reading here.

65 thoughts on “Treating a Torn/Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) (Crucial Ligament) in Dogs (ACL)”

  1. Does anyone know how much this surgery costs? My dog has this injury and I am trying to find out as much as I can about the surgery and I can’t find the expense anywhere.

  2. We spent about $500 diagnosing the problem – between x-rays and office visits, etc. Then the actual surgery cost us $3,200. I think the toughest part was keeping our dog caged for 3 months after the surgery, she’s a very active dog, so keeping her penned up was very tough.

    Good luck with your dog!

  3. I am going through this right now. Although my lab just had elbow surgery. It is his first night home and all he is doing is whining and that is WITH the sedative in him. They said to crate him for 1 month. I don’t think I can live through this. They only gave us sedatives for 1 week. That is NO Way going to cut it. I have such a headache dealing with this( and I have another dog that runs around and gets the lab all crazy!)

  4. We were given sedatives for only a week also, we went back to the vet and they happily gave us more. I think they just take precautions so that the owners don’t take (or try to sell) the drugs.

    We had a puppy who was 1 year old when our dog was injured. It was tough keeping one in a crate and letting the other run around the house, but we got through it. Just stay positive, and remember that rest during the first month of recovery is very important.

  5. Thanks for the support. Cooper( the lab) Is only 1/2 years himself so being inactive is not easy. he did sleep well last night thank goodness. I know this is for his own good and I don’t want to undo the 1000 dollar surgery. This has been a nightmare!

  6. I just paid $2,175 for my 4yr old american bulldog’s surgery for a completely torn cranial cruciate ligament on her right knee plus another $400 in xrays and visits from my regular vet before the surgery to diagnose what i told them the problem was. Took her in for surgery the other day and she was terrified for her whole hospital stay. Just got her back yesterday. She was whining and crying this morning because of the pain. This evening she seems to be doing alot better. Just hard to keep her still since she follows me every where through out the house. 6 weeks ahead of no activity for her. Dr said if i didn’t get it done arthritis will set in and be painful for her. She’s a very good, young, healthy dog, so i felt she was worth it.

    Good luck with your dog!!

  7. Good luck with your dog as well Jeff. We are now going into week 2. On tuesday he gets his stitches out. He is getting very antsy as the sedatives are now all gone. They gave me a month of rimadyl but I just do not feel comfortable with this drug. I had another dog with hip dysplasia who died from liver complications from rimadyl. So I only give it to him on a limited basis. The vet said Cooper will get arthritis no matter what but the surgery was still necessary because of bone chips. I am going to start giving him supplements. He is a great loving dog and I guess he was meant to be mine so I could take care of him. Keep in touch and let me know how your doggie is doing. :)

  8. Thanks Leslie!! This is day 3 after her surgery she’s doing good but starts crying every time i leave the house. She has to be within 5 feet of me and follows me to every room i go. Luckily i have a 1st floor condo with no stairs so it’s not really a big deal. I just don’t want her to do any unnecessary walking. I think she has separation anxiety from the hospital stay. The Dr. gave me Deramaxx to reduce pain and inflammation. Tramadol as additional pain medication. Famotidine to reduce upset stomach from the anesthesia. Lastly a Fentanyl patch for pain that comes off monday. I hope none of those cause any complications. I have to take her back in 2weeks to get the staples out. Dont know why they didn’t just stitch it. Guess staples are stronger. I had her surgery done and the Univ of Penn. Supposedly they are the best. The Dr. told me she does on average 5 or more a week.

  9. I know the separation anxiety. Cooper is crated but he hates when I leave the room. The stay at the vets was very traumatic for him. I take him Tuesday and am afraid he will freak out when he goes back in. The only meds I got were rimadyl, a sedative and antibiotic. Antibiotic was a weeks worth as were the sedatives. Rimadyl was a months worth but as I said before I don’t feel comfortable with the drug so don’t give it to him much. He still has a lot of swelling. He is getting very impatient in his cage now. Whines and wants out. When I take him to the bathroom he tries to butt tuck and run in the back yard. I live in a split level so this has been very hard for me. I use a harness so when we go up or down stairs I am lifting him and bearing all the weight. I think I have Popeye’s arms now 😉

    University of Penn is an excellent.. you should feel very good in your choice. We had our done at a local vet here is State College who is very good in orthopedics.

    The hard part is my dog wants to play with my 1 year old golden ( marvin) It kills him to see Marve running around and he isn’t.

    Here’s to more healing for your pooch and less anxiety. They have benn through so much it really is heartbreaking. Keep in touch on her progress :)

  10. Has any one forgone the surgery if the dog seems to recover from the leg injury? It seems like if they are going to get arthritis any way, why put them through all that anxiety and pain for 3-4 months. Will it really be better? Considering the choices.

  11. In many cases the dog will get arthritis either way, but not doing the surgery will severely limit the dogs activity for the rest of its life. A friend of mine decided to forego the surgery and his dog (a big yellow lab) can’t walk normally, its right rear leg just hangs and he can’t put any pressure on it.

    The surgery is expensive, but if you have an active dog now and if you ever want it to be active again, having the surgery is the only way to go.

    Side note
    We are about a year out of our surgery with our 6 1/2 year old American Staffordshire Terrier and she is doing great! She is running around again like she did when she was a puppy, and this morning she went Rollerblading with me and our 2 year old Pit/Lab mix puppy… a 2 1/2 mile run for her and she did great!!!

  12. this is so great that you have taken the time to document this stuff. i live in tasmania, australia and just found out yesterday that our 3/4 yr old lab (a giveaway) has degenerative crucial ligament disease in both knees!! she needs to have the suture or the TPLO surg on both knees!!!! omg a bit stressed to say the least. our quote is $900 for each knee for the traditional method that you had done and $2500 AUS for each knee for the TPLO. Not sure what to do really. More expensive but should be long lasting as takes away the need for the ligament altogether. As she is so young and probably has another 8 – 10 yrs left may be worth it. Your story that your dog is pretty well back to normal gave me some confidence in the traditional method – now just down to $$$ cheers S

  13. Thanks so much for all this info. Our 18mth old Lab is having xrays on Thurs for a possible CCL. The vet has suggested TPLO considering is size and age. The sedation/xray will cost $300 and TPLO is between $3500-$4000. Really wishing we would have signed up for pet insurance.
    My heart is broken, I cannot imagine trying to keep him inactive for 3mths but I guess that is small considering what will happen if we don’t do anything.
    He is so active even now with the injury, if he wasn’t limping no one would know he was hurt.
    He was just running last week at the off leash park and began limping later that night, so quick. I was really hoping he would get better, that it was just a pulled muscle. Guess we will know more on Thursday.

  14. Let us know what happens Stephanie. If it is a torn/ruptured CCL, surgery is the best option. We’re about a year out and our 6 1/2 year old dog is acting like a puppy again. I think she was so happy to get out of the crate that it makes her enjoy life that much more now.

  15. april 2, 2008

    My Husky Lakoda just had the surgery last wek Friday and I am a little bit concerned because she isn’t putting a pressure on her left back leg when it was the right back leg that was operated on. Is this normal?
    I am so afraid that I hurt her more by having the surgery then by letting her not have the surgery. She is only 3 1/2 years old and she is such a wonderful sweet dog. I lost my other Shepard, Husky, wolf mix about 4 years ago and I don’t think I can go thru that again. Can someone please tell if this is a normal response that she is not putting any pressure on her leg leg?

  16. Hi Lynn,

    I cannot say whether or not that is normal. You should definitely call the doctor who performed the surgery and get their opinion.

    I know that in our case, we were told to severly limit the dogs activity and movement, but when we did take her outside, she’d hop on the leg that she didn’t have surgery on.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with the recovery.

  17. I did take her back to the week last Saturday. He checked her out and he said she is fine. Her left knee is strong and okay. Her right knee is healing nicely. She is now putting more weight on her right knee and walks on her left leg okay. I think she was favoring both back legs because of the pain. The vet put her on more pain meds. she seems to have improved the last couple of days. Saturday she gets her staples out so we will see want happens then.
    She is refusing to take her meds. I have tried chedder cheese and swiss almond spread, velvetta, peanut butter and even liver sausage. But she won’t take them. Anybody have any ideas I’m open for suggestions?

  18. I too had a dog undergo a repair for a torn CCL, we decided to go with the traditional method and are now 3 months post op and doing great. Best of luck to you all.

    PS – the only way we could get our dog to take meds was to cover them in hummus!!

  19. My poor sam is having surgery on monday and after reading all these responses and replies I feel soooo much better that she’s going to be ok cheers everybody.

  20. This information has been a big relief! My 10 month old baby (American Bulldog) Jack was just diagnosed with a CCL in his back right leg and severe hip dysplasia. I am looking at spending atleast $10,000 on all of this. The bill was a shocker, but my biggest concern is my dogs well-being. I have been so stressed wondering if I am doing the right thing or not and I must say, I now believe he will be just fine. Jack’s surgery is scheduled on July 23, 2008 and with all this useful information, I think we are going to make it through. Now I’m excited for October, when all his healing should be done. Thanks again!!!!

  21. Glad the information was useful Brandy. $10,000 sounds a little bit excessive, but maybe it’s more costly for that age and breed of dog.

    Best of luck, and keep us posted on the recovery. 😉

  22. Thanks! I think it’s more costly because of the severity. I won’t need to spend all of that at one time. Luckily, he can go up to 3 years before needing hip surgery. Even if I knew all of this before I got him, I know I would have still gotten him. He’s my world. Guess you can say I’m a sucker for a cute face.

  23. Well we had the surgery 9wks ago now and our lab is doing great, of course HE thinks he is 100%, but we are still restricting his activity. Just had the follow up xray this AM and all has healed wonderfully with no real signs of arthritis. We are required to keep him somewhat restricted for another 7wks(no running off leash, with other dogs, nothing extreme) but he is going for normal walks on leash, normal activity in the house.

    He did come through the whole thing like a trooper. Although we did have to pick him up the day of the surgery as he just would not settle and they feared he would do himself more damage if he stayed there overnight(especially since his epidural had not fully worn off and was moving about the kennel with no back legs behind him). Scary first night as we did not expect to have him home so groggy. Curled up with me on the floor and fell right to sleep, guess he just wanted his mom. He had antibiotics, Deramaxx anti-inflammatory for 2 wks and Tramadol for pain in the first week post-op. But showed little sign of being in pain after that first week.
    He was toe touching on day 1, could not believe it. Went down the back 3 steps to outside by day 2(gently with supervision on leash as per vet instructions). He has not limped, even after a longer walk, since about 5wks post op. It is tougher now to keep him restricted, because he seems so good, but we must struggle through the last few weeks of recouperation. We don’t want to do any harm after everything we put him through.
    My only constant fear is that his other knee will go also(fingers crossed). We tried to get pet insurance but none will cover the other knee(it is considered a bi-lateral injury). I have encouraged everyone I know to get insurance, even to cover majority of the cost. Obviously one just never knows when or if this injury will occur.
    So pleased with the results and hope that it will continue. Looking forward to the day he can play with other dogs and be rambuctious with his teenage human brothers.

  24. Congrats Stephanie!!! Glad the surgery went well, and glad to hear that your dog is doing great!!

    Keep us posted to the progress of your dogs recovery.

    Thanks for keeping in touch!

  25. We had to take my 2 1/2 yr old English Springer Spaniel, Jack, to the doggie ER last night because he couldn’t walk on his left hind leg. After a five minute physical exam the doctor told me he needed surgery. I’m having a hard time accepting that my very active puppy has a degenerative disease. He is the picture of health! Is it common in dogs this young? Does anyone know of any exceptional specialist in the New England are that I could take him to? Please help. I hate to see Jack in pain! Thanks, Caren

  26. My Husky Lakoda had her surgery in April and she is doing great. She is not limping any more. She is no longer on any pain meds.
    I contribute her recovery to her getting a glucosamine tablet a day and
    to the dog food from Nature Select. It has glucosamine in it and she loves it. It has small kibble. I am giving my Beauceron the same food and he is loves it also.

    Nature Select delivers the dog food to my home and for free if you order
    more then $29.00 worth of food.

    I really like the idea that I don’t have to go to the pet store to pick up dog food. Also the cost is not bad either.

    Check to see if they sell it in your area and get some for your dog.

    It is well worth it. I swear by it.


  27. Just to let everyone know, I took my springer Jack for a second opinion yesterday and he does not have CCL which he was diagnosed with the previous night at the ER. He has lymes Disease, which is easier and cheaper to correct. I just hope that this helps someone else. If I had not gone for a second opinion and had listened to the ER’s advice to have the surgery the following day, Jack would have had to undergo an unneccessary surgery that would have affected him for the rest of his life. It just makes me wonder how many other people have been misled and have actually gone through with the unneccesary surgery. Please get a second opinion!!!! Jack is on medication and is expected to be back to normal by the end of the week. He will be off his meds in 21 days. That’s it! And it only cost roughly $200. for all the tests and med’s. Please get a second opinion!!!! Can’t stress that enough.
    Thanks! Caren

  28. Caren,

    Glad you lucked out and didn’t need the surgery. My dog was tested for Lyme’s disease as that is what they thought it was in the first place. However my dog tested negative and did need surgery. She had it done in 11/07. She still favors the r/r leg if she is standing still but if she is running you could never tell. She’ll run on it 100% and does not show any pain. We just got back from obx, nc and she was doing a lot of running on the beach and it held up well. I just hope her other knee doesn’t go out any time soon.

  29. Her health is pretty good. She just had blood work for the senior profile in September and the vet thinks she will do fine. I just don’t want her to suffer.

  30. My Husky Lakoda had her surgery back in April and I can’t believe how well she is doing. the vet told me to except her to only be about 80-90%.
    But she is a 100%. She surprised the hell out of me the other day I was sitting on my mom’s bed and the next thing I knew she was in back of me on the bed.
    She is running and jumping and climbing stairs just like before the surgery. She is doing just great.
    I told the vet that she was doing really great and he was happy.
    My Beauceron came up lame last weekend and we took him to the vet and found out that he sprained his back leg. So now I have to watch him and give him pain meds.

    Good luck with your dog.

  31. Hello all–glad alot of you are having success–i have an 8 yr old pit named Trinity. I have had her since she was a pup–i actually had 1st pick after delivery. I have no children–she is my baby. She has been having issues on-off with this problem for about a year with her limping–i went in today to get another opinion and now they say she has ccl in both knees–i don’t know what to do. I just don’t have the means to pay for that type of surgery. If anyone knows anyone that does this surgery for payments please let me know–i cannot stand to see her in pain. I will do whatever I can. Thanks and good luck

  32. Jaime,

    Where do you live? That is the first question. Some times you can treat it with Fish Oil tablets. Or by giving glucosaime tablets. I feed my dogs Nature’s Select with glucosaime in it and my dogs are doing very good on it. I would suggest you check with several vets to see if they have payment plans. It pays to shop around for a vet. When Lakoda was diagnosed with her CCL tear the first vet wanted $3000 and we found one who did it for $1400. Big difference and she is doing great.

    Good Luck!!!


  33. Thanks for replying Lynn. I live in Va. between DC and Richmond. I have been told that there is someone locally that has been very successful doing the older style of surgery which also is about 1200 per knee. The only problem is he needs full payment up front. I just wanted to see if there was someone who takes payments. I have been giving her glyco flex 2 for about 6 months and have seen no signs of improvement. thanks, Jaime

  34. I thought I’d share our different experience when our lab tore his CCL 4 years ago at age 6. We had the x-rays done and went to 2 different vets to get their opinions on the options- the cheaper $800 or more expensive $3000 TPLO surgery. We just couldn’t decide what to do. During this time (within 2 weeks) our lab did not seem in pain, was not on meds (only the first few days) and shortly began to use the leg again. We were told if we didn’t do anything, the knee would likely develop arthritis but this would probably happen even with surgery. Friends of ours had the less expensive surgery done on their dog but the repaired ligament did not hold long and the dog developed severe arthritis in the repaired knee. Because our dog did not seem in pain and was using his leg we ended up having no surgery. We put him on glucosamine tablets and he has had no lameness or signs of pain or arthritis in the leg since. He is almost 10 now.
    Unfortunately, yesterday while on a run our lab hurt his other “good” leg(he yelped and now is holding up this leg). That knee showed signs of deterioration when we had x-rays done for the first one 4 years ago. So here we go again, though not unexpected. Not sure what we may do now for this one.

  35. Wow, a lot of comments on this subject. About a month ago my 10 yr border collie/aussie mix started limping on her back leg. I took her to the vet and she examined her and said she had a tear in her ligament. No other test though. Just in case it wasn’t that severe, she gave me some rimdyl for a few weeks and it didn’t help. Like Amy, I’m not sure if surgery is the answer, since she’s pretty old anyway and we definitely don’t have that kind of money ($2,000). She is also overweight which makes it hard for her to get up, however she has lost about 26 pounds in the last year and still losing, she has to take thyroid pills everyday. I love her to death, but with the economy so bad we just can’t afford the surgery. I don’t hear her yelping or anything, so I’m not sure how bad it really is. I know to keep her restricted and I try my best at that.

  36. Our beloved 8 yr old bulldog had surgery a couple of months ago to replace his CCL with a plate (?). Cost 2500 (AU). Despite resting him as much as possible he now seems to have done the same thing to his other back leg. I have just read online that this occurs in about 40% of dogs. He is an eternal puppy at heart and while he is happy to lie around all day, he is becoming depressed at having his night time walks curtailed. If you have ever seen a bulldog sulk, you will know what I mean. Its unbearable. We are sadly contemplating the unthinkable, not for financial reasons but just to save our darling boy having to go through all that again. We’ll give it another couple of weeks while waiting for that miracle…

  37. We have the same problem with our Jack Russell girl, who is 8 and still extremely active, chases everything that comes in the yard, including birds. She jumped off the deck on to the patio to chase a squirrel and it has been several months and she is getting worse. She can not go for a walk now without limping or not putting her back leg down for several days. She is on Metacam. We are told that she is two things, she should have the surgery and it will cost a minumum of $2,000 and then that she is too small to have successful surgery, her ligaments are too small to fix easily. Plus, trying to keep her inactive is next to impossible and confining her to her crate seems so cruel. We don’t really have up to $4,000 to spend on her if she is not a good candidate and she may not recover. Also, the likeliness of her repeating this is very high. She just bolts everywhere. Such a hard decision.
    Any advice from anyone who has had a similiar breed and undergone the surgery?

  38. I was just told that my 13 year old terrier mix needs CCL surgery. Has anyone had this surgery done on a dog this old? She is still very much puppy like, running and jumping until this happened this morning. thanks. Lynn

  39. Hey, just thought I’d share an experience and ask a few questions. Our 1 1/2 year old Old English Bulldog just underwent CCL surgery (1200.00) for the one knee, and we’ve been told there is a 50-60% chance he will need the other one done within the year. He also has some hip dysplasia, which the vet was going to “grade” while he was under anesthetic. Anyway, the local breeder we purchased our puppy from has been less than understanding, and told us that a bit of acupuncture would do the trick (we use the same vet as our breeder, and when we told the vet this, she laughed incredulously). I want to ask the breeder for atleast a partial refund, as we too have been quoted close to $12000.00 for the knees and possible hip surgeries. Does anyone have experience with this kind of situation, and how to handle irresponsible breeders? The vet feels that we are intitled to some type of reimbursement, or apology at the very least (which we did not receive either!).

  40. I have a 5 year old lab/shepard mix that has a complete tear in one knee and a partial tear in the other knee. I have been quoted $2000 per knee for surgery, has anyone ever had the experiance of having both knees go? If so what is the chance of a successful surgery for both knees?

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