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Dog ACL Surgery and How You Can Help the Process From A Veterinarian

Old dog laying on a rug with a cone of shame on

You may have just got the news that your dog has torn his ACL. While this can be a very painful condition, but there are many things that you can do to help your dog feel much better.

Dog ACL surgery

For dogs who have torn their ACL's, there are surgical procedures that can be done to fix their ACL. These will help limit the amount of arthritis in their knees.

What is an ACL injury?

The ACL is a ligament in the knee. These help keep the bone from moving too far forward or too far back when you walk. An injury to the ACL is very common in human athletes such as football and basketball players who start and stop running very quickly. In very active dogs can also tear their ACL running around playing. This is usually a very sudden non-weight bearing injury to the hind leg.

Possibility of tearing ACL

Spaniel Puppy laying on a white bed

ACL tears are prevalent in large breed dogs. If your dog has a sudden non-weight bearing injury to the back legs, this is most likely an ACL tear.

Alternatives to ACL surgery

While ACL surgery can be costly, there are other alternatives that you can do to help your dog recover from an ACL injury. If the ACL is just partial torn rest can potentially improve the ACL heal. Other alternatives to surgery include cold laser therapy and knee braces.

Cold Laser Therapy

A cold laser is used to decrease the swelling and inflammation in the knee joint. This is a machine that delivers waves to the knee that help increases the blood flow to the area and decreases the inflammation and help aid in the healing process.


Just like with people with ACL injuries, a dog can also wear braces to help stabilize the knee. Many companies make dog braces for their knees.

Process of Dog ACL Surgery

Old graying dog laying on a round dog bed looking sad

There are two different types one is extracapsular, and the other is a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy or TPLO

Extracapsular surgery

Extracapsular surgery uses very strong suture material to make a false ligament. This will be done by putting sutures outside of the joint near the knee. This helps prevent the tibia from sliding beneath the femur.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy or TPLO

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is the preferred surgical treatment for large dogs over 40 pounds. This procedure changes the angle of the tibia. A veterinary surgeon will cut the tibia and change the angle of the tibia. They will put a metal plate on the leg to hold the bone in place while it heals

Cost of ACL surgery

King Charles Spaniel Lying belly up on a blue dog bed

The Cost of ACL surgery will depend on what kind of surgery you decided to do and where you get the surgery done. An extracapsular surgery will be on the lower end while a TPLO will be on the higher end. Some general practitioners will do an extracapsular repair while a TPLO will most likely need to go to an orthopedic surgeon for repair. The range of these procedures can be between $900 to $4500. This range all depends on where you live and who is doing the surgery.

How you can help after surgery

After your dog has orthopedic surgery, there are many different ways that you can help them recover faster at home. Make sure also to follow all the instructions given by your veterinarian.

Controlled exercise (purchase equipment)

You can start with controlled exercise. There is equipment that you can purchase to help your dog begin to use their leg and strengthen their leg muscles.

Physical therapy

Small shaved Pomeranian laying on a couch with a pillow under its head

You can take them to physical therapy. Just like with people, they have dog physical therapist. They can help get your dog back up and running around in no time.

Orthopedic dog bed

Another option to help a dog recover is an orthopedic dog bed. These dog beds can relieve the pressure that dogs can experience on certain parts of their body while laying on the floor or on other dog beds. They have been shown to speed up the recovery period of certain surgeries. 

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Small amounts of food and water (upset dog appetite)

After surgery, makes sure you feed small amounts of food and water. Anesthesia can make dogs a little nauseous. Limit the amount of food and water that you give them a few days after surgery until you know that they are not nauseated.

Use prescribed pain medication recommended by a vet only!

Your veterinarian should send you home with pain medication to give your dog. After any orthopedic surgery, your dog is going to be painful. Make sure that you give the medication that your veterinarian prescribed. Do not give any other medicines without first asking your vet.

Ice packs

German Shepherd laying on a dog bed looking sad

Ice packs on the incision site are great to use to help decrease the swelling and inflammation around the knee. Make sure to wrap the ice pack with a small towel. Never put an ice pack directly on your dog’s skin.

Ortho-knee brace

Ortho-knee braces help support the knee while the ACL injury is healing. These are great to use for dogs who are suffering from an ACL injury.


For dogs with any joint or ligament injury, certain supplements can help. Glucosamine and Chondroitin will help with inflammation of the joints. Omega will also help with joint inflammation. If your dog is very painful CBD products can help with pain associated with arthritis.

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Pre-surgical physical therapy

If you are waiting on surgery for your dog, there is physical therapy that you can do at home to help strengthen the muscles in the legs. This will help make recovery faster and smoother.

Once your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL tear, you can ask your veterinarian on their preferred method for treating the ACL damage. There are many different options of things that can be done to help your dog recover from ACL damage.

An ACL injury can be painful at first for your dog. Many things can be done to help eliminate the pain and get your dog back running and playing. If you are waiting for your dog to have surgery on their knee, keeping the calm until the operation is best. An ACL injury can be successfully repaired and your dog out of pain and back to their happy self.

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dr sara ochoa dvm author at sitstay.com

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM
Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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