Surgical intervention for cranial cruciate ligament repair can be a costly and time-intensive process. The procedure can range anywhere from $800 to $2500 plus, depending on which surgical technique is used. Your dog will also need to be on a number of medications including sedatives, antibiotics, and anti inflammatories. Owners must place their pets under strict supervision for a few months to follow the procedure, to ensure that the stability of the procedure is maintained. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when developing the best treatment plan for your dog.
Surgery is not always an option for some animals. There are risks from anesthesia, and allergies to which some dogs are particularly sensitive. The financial burden of a surgical procedure can be great, and is not always an option for even the most caring owner.
What happens if my dog’s cranial cruciate tear is not repaired? Will my dog’s knee heal on its own?
A ruptured or torn CCL will decrease stability within the stifle (knee) joint. Your dog will begin to produce wear between the bones and meniscal cartilage, becoming abnormal, the joint will begin to develop degenerative changes. Eventually bone spurs known as osteophytes develop and chronic pain and loss of joint motion result. The osteophytes are evident as soon as 1 to 3 weeks after the rupture in some patients, with others showing no osteophyte development after years of living with the condition. The development of osteophytes, and degenerative changes in general, typically is related to the size of the dog, i.e. it is more difficult for a large breed dog to bear extra weight on an injured joint, whereas a lighter dog has an easier time with weight displacement.
It is normal for dogs, of all sized, to show signs of improvement within several weeks of the time of the acute injury. During this time the dog may appear to get better, but it is unlikely that your pet will become permanently normal. There was a study done on a group of dogs for 6 monts after cruciate rupture. At the end of 6 months, 85% of the dogs under 30 pounds had regained near normal or improved function, whereas only about 20% of dogs over 30 lbs had regained near normal funciton. Both groups of dogs required at least 4 months of exercise restriction and anti-inflammatory medication use, also known as conservative management, before maximum improvement was shown.
Remember, any degenerative changes, such as osteophyte development and arthritis, that have taken place after your dog’s CCL injury will not be healed by surgery. These changes are permanent, and while they can be arrested by surgery, they can not be reversed.