Hidden Costs and Unexpected Costs of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Repair in Dogs

These costs aren’t necessarily “hidden” costs per-se, but they are definitely costs that you will incur that aren’t always talked about and mentioned when reading about the cost of a TPLO surgery in dogs, or the cost of a TTA surgery in dogs.

Cost of X-Rays
Prior to determining the type of surgery that should be performed, an x-ray is needed to determine the angle of the stifle joint. Since the angle of the stifle (knee) joint plays a role in the type of surgery available, it is an importatant step in CCL repair. My wife and I spent the number on the high range because we rushed our dog to the doggie emergency room on a Sunday evening, I’m assuming an x-ray can be done for much less.
Unexpected Cost of CCL Repair #1 – X-Rays – $100-$500

Cost of Medications
After surgery, you’ll be giving your dog heavy doses of pain killers, and depending on the activity level of your dog, you may be giving it some sort of sedatives as well. We didn’t use the entire prescription of pain killers, but we did have to renew the prescription for sedatives because our dog didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with her.
Unexpected Cost of CCL Repair #2 – Medication – $150-$350

Cost of Follow-Up Visits
I should have expected this one, but for some reason, I overlooked it. The day we left the veterinary clinic, we rescheduled for the following week. We had about 5 follow up visits in the next 2 months, and not only were we paying for each visit, but we were also being upsold on joint health medications, arthritis medications, weight management diets, joint health diets, and just about everything else that you can think of. We just spent $2,700 on surgery, now we’re being nickle and dimed for all sorts of other stuff? Really not necessary, but don’t be surprised if it happens to you too!
Unexpected Cost of CCL Repair #3 – Follow-Up Visits – $200-$500

From start to finish, you can expect to be 2-3 thousand dollars in when all is said and done, but you can keep this amount much smaller if you do your research and go through the entire rehab process on your own.


  1. says

    This happened to our dog, and you are exactly right… there are so many “extra” costs that you don’t even think about. When they tell you that the surgery is going to be $2,700.00 – that is ONLY for the surgery… there are plenty of other things they charge you for too:
    waste disposal
    lab fees
    the list goes on…

  2. jennifer says

    I was originally told the surgery would cost $1800 to $2000 (she told me $2000 would be the most expensive) as to not surprise me. When i went in to pick up my pet the bill was over 2800. I was shocked, they didn’t even phone me or let me know before i was to pick him up. Then after the surgery he needed K laser to help speed healing, for approx 4 min of laser it cost $78.75, per session. He apparently had 3 already which was included in the 2800, but he needed another 3. All i could think was i love my pet but this is ridiculous. Then after about 10 days he started limping again and not using his leg, i have read about setbacks and am hoping this is what is wrong because we cannot afford another surgery. This is stressful i would imagine on the animal but it is very stressful on the individual.

  3. LainePreston says

    My 2 year old English Bull terrier is a lover not a fighter and 30 seconds after entering the dog park in Coogee Australia yesterday a german shepard named Max ran up and attacked him. Not once but twice in the space of 5 minutes. My daughter and I immediately left the dog park after the attacks and noticed he had difficulty getting into the car. It wasn’t until this morning when he failed to get up for breakfast we realised something was seriously wrong. The vet now informs us he has a torn crutiate ligament in his leg and has kept him in overnight and proposes to do X-rays tomorrow morning and then surgery to repair. I am concerned now that I have read the post re crutiate ligaments not showing up on X-rays and wonder what to do next. Any suggestions readers?

  4. says

    The X-Rays are a must because they need to check for broken bones or more serious damage. It’s true that ligaments don’t show up on X-rays, but the veterinarian will most likely do a “drawer test” while your dog is sedated for x-rays in order to test the stability of the knee/stifle joint.

    Best of luck.

  5. dr. hirsch says

    actually, we (the veterinarian) are not looking for ligaments on a x-ray (actually called radiographs). we are looking for movement of the fat pad within the joint capsule and signs of secondary degenerative disease within the joint. All suspious signs of a cruciate ligament tear. And yes, most times, if the client has waited long enough to bring in their pets, you can see calcification of the torn ligament on a radiograph. It is important to note that obesity is one of the most important contributing factors to torn ligaments and that the surgery only stabilizes the joint and unfortunately arthritis is fairly inevitable. so we can slow down the progression with weight loss and joint lubricants. I hope this has helped!!!
    dr. hirsch-

  6. Cynthia says

    Our 12 year old lab has been diagnosed with a partially torn cruciate ligament. We are weighing surgery. He is good health, but is limping badly and self limiting his activity- no stairs, etc. Any thoughts on success rate and improved quality of life for our beloved Harry?

  7. says

    Hi Cynthia –

    Just from the stories I’ve heard, and from personal experience, I’d recommend starting with activity restriction, and maybe also use some anti-inflammatory medications (if prescribed by the vet). At 12 years of age, the surgery may be too much, and it is possible to get Harry back to a point of comfort where he’ll be able to walk and live normally again.

    Once again, these are just my personal opinions, I’d highly recommend that you go see a veterinarian. If you do decide to go with the conservative management route and no surgery, here are some products that you may want to consider:

    • Nupro Joint Support for Dogs (Silver)
      This product is great because it contains both Glucosamine and MSM, both help with joint stiffness, and MSM has been shown to help with inflammation and some studies have showed it to reduce pain.
    • Cosequin DS Anti-Inflammatory
      Cosequin is known as an anti-inflammatory and many surgeons recommend that a dogs take this daily after knee surgery. Cosequin has manyy benefits and is recommended for any dogs with inflammation or joint pain. A 4-6 week period should typically be enough time for the owner to tell if there is an improvement in mobility.
    • Joint Treats® (60 Soft Chews)
      Healthy and beneficial for dogs of all ages. Can be used as treats or as daily supplements. I’ve heard of people using these supplements for dogs with hip dysplasia.
  8. Spleena says

    Our “Annie” is 9 months old. She is a golden retriever and injured her right hind leg at 6 months. X-rays were taken and she was given Rhymadil for inflamation. She seemed to get better and only limped here and there. About 2 weeks ago she started to limp again after playing with another dog. The vet thinks the CCL is partially torn and again she is on Rhymadil with exercise restriction. He felt that she would need CCL surgery in her future when the ligament ruptured fully. I know that she is not fully grown, but is is better to do surgery now, BEFORE a rupture occurs? I would rather stablize the ligament before it rips further. Is that an option? Or, should I be waiting for her to grow older and more lame? I hate seeing her down, but want to do what is best. I’m not worried about surgery costs, I just want a healthy puppy. She is too young to have this happen so early in her life.

  9. says

    Hi Spleena –

    I’m hoping that another reader will be able to weigh in with some information. I’m not sure whether it be best to have the surgery now with the dog so young, or wait until she is entirely done growing. My initial thought would be to wait, but I know that can be hard knowing that your dog is in some pain.

    Best of luck to you and Annie and thank you for contributing to this site.

  10. Sandy says

    my 2year old 85 lbs lab “lady” started to have trouble going up 3 steps I thought she was just clumsy, then she didn’t want to get out of her crate in the morning, her vet checked her found some arthritis and order X-rays and said nothing would show up but put her on cosequin DS “for life”. she has better days now but still she send me to the surgeon for a 2nd opinion, he said lady has a torn ligament on one leg and partial on the other,im a little confused because once she is up she can run fine. I Love my dog as much as any pet owner but $2500+ now and $2500+ soon after? what if i don’t go for the surgery? one vet said she is over weight 10 lbs the other said her weight is fine. could it be something other than the ligaments?

  11. says

    Hi Sandy –

    If you’ve talked to 2 vets who have given you different opinions, I’d recommend to go see a 3rd. If $2,500 is too much to spend, I’d be inclined to say that diet/weight restriction would be a great place to start to see if that helps your dogs mobility at all. We had the surgery, but our 60lb pitbull dropped 25% of her body weight… she now ranges between 42-45lbs… Can you say “Biggest Loser”???

    Weight loss has defnitely helped our dog, and while it won’t take the place of having a knee surgically repaired, it will definitely help in mobility and recovery.

    Best of luck.

  12. Shannon says

    We have a 11-12 year old 35 lb. beagle mix that has a leg injury. One vet wasn’t sure if it was a full torn ACL and that their was inflammation and to keep him in a kennel and on anti-inflammatories for 2 weeks and bring him back for a check up (which will be 1 week from today). Took him to another vet for a second opinion and she said she thinks it’s a full tear and surgery is necessary. He seemed to be doing better for last week, but last night seemed worse again. So, thinking it’s time for surgery and trying to decide between the TPLO or the traditional micro-filament surgery. The traditional seems so much less invasive and has less complications. Just thinking that since he’s already 11 or 12, I hate to have him miss out on the entire summer of swimming and (light) playing since he doesn’t have many summers left. With TPLO, sounds like he’ll be recovering all summer long. Any advice? Should we wait another week or go ahead with surgery ASAP?

    • Krystle says

      I am going through the same thing. My 8 year old Beagle was diagnosed as having a ruptured ACL but I really would like to stay away from surgery if possible and was thinking about hydrotherapy. What did you end up doing?

    • Sarah says

      I have a 12 year old American staffordshire teirerr, Keela. I’m am so torn to wether or not I should put her to sleep. She has had hip displaysia for many years, and we have been giving her pain pills for a long time. She has trouble getting up and sitting down. She has been going to the bathroom in the house for a couple years now, and she does not know when it’s coming most of the time. I come home and clean poop a couple tomes a week, on the floors and in her bed that she is still laying in. She is partially going deaf. The vet did not tell me that, but I know. She used to bark at everything, and now she sometimes does not even hear the doorbell. I look at her sometimes and it looks like she is going blind in one eye she just stares at nothing. She still eats her food and will always take a treat. She still shows signs of wanting to play with my 2 and 4 year old kids, but it only lasts a couple minutes before she hurts herself moving to quickly. She has numerous moles and fluid filled bubbles other body. She is always licking her back legs, front legs, etc. Even though it is difficult for her to get up and down,she follows me from room to room, even if its just for a second. Even though i hate it, I am used to cleaning up after her, but I know it’s not sanitary for my kids. We are moving into a 2 story house in a couple weeks, and I was sure I would feel comfortable doing it by this point. She is clearly in pain and nowhere near the dog she used to be, but I love her dearly and still see how happy she is to be with us. The decision is killing me. I know she will never make it up and down 25 stairs everyday, all day. I know she will not be able to handle not sleeping with us upstairs. She has slept by my side since she was 3.5 months old. I need help please!

  13. Stacey says

    My 7 year old lab/rhodesian ridgeback might have a torn ligament. We took him in last week and they said that there is movement but to just keep him on bed rest for two weeks and bring him back. If he has a torn ligament will it ever get better with time without surgery? The cost of surgery is aweful. I do not know what to do. He is a big suck. We also have another dog(Chesapeake Bay Retriever) with the same problem but he has had it for 6 years and you would not know that there was anything wrong with him except when he comes down the stairs he only uses three legs. I would just like some opinions on what to do that is all.

  14. LSM says

    I am sooooo very sad. I have 2 sons, one who is a beautiful 4 yr old and my oldest who is my 150lbs rottie/shepard named Sammy. I found out yesterday that Sam has a ruptured/torn cruciate ligament. the vet says that surgery is our only option which would be performed by a specialist at approx $3000.00. Sammy is 8yrs old, and I do not have $3K. I am thousands of dollars in debt, and I am completely lost. I am not ready to let Sammy go. I am crying while I type this. Since my “human” son has been born, Sammy has taken a back seat, and now the guilt is like poison. I cried all day at work…ALL DAY. My eyes are sooo swollen. I dont want him to be in any pain, and I heard that no human can truly understand how high of a pain tolerance canines possess; so he could really be feeling so much worse than I could ever tell. He is limping but other than that, he is wagging his tail, he seems happy to see me when I come home.

    the worse part is that I live in an APT, and he HAS to climb 13 steps to go in & out for bathroom trips. so far he can go up & down but i have no idea how long that will last. i dont even know when this became torn. Now my 4yr old is taking a back seat, because i truly cant think about anything else. someone please tell me what to do…or at least what i should be looking for. i dont want to put him down unless it is necessary. i cant stop the tears from falling; someone please tell me something…

    im not ready to lose him…is it time? my vet didnt give me many options; just surgery. any insight would be very much appreciated.

    i am sooo sorry; i am just overwhelmed with sadness; i just want to do whats best for him…

  15. Lee says

    I have a 2 year old female St. Bernard (Hannah). A few weeks ago we noticed a serious limp. Took her in to my vet who xrayed and tells me she has torn her craniel cruciate ligament in her hind left leg. I’m from a small town and need to travel 4 hours to have the surgery performed.(since she is a large breed dog) The surgery date is scheduled for Oct. 19 which is still a month away. Trying to restrict her activity as much as possible but with 2 other saints it’s very difficult as she wants to run and play with them. This past week her limping seemed to subside and I thought it wouldn’t be a problem waiting the month for surgery. However, today I get up and she is limping terribly when she walks and when she is standing in one spot her hind leg is dangling. I’m giving her glucosomine nightly and also meloxicam. Is there something else I can give her during the days that she seems extra sore while we wait for the surgery. Any advice would be greatfully apprecieated!!!

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