Not all owners can afford the expensive surgery that cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) repair surgery typically requires. There is quite a range in prices depending on what procedure is recommended by your veterinarian for your dog’s knee repair and where you live. For example, a traditional repair can cost anywhere from $1000-2000+, whereas a TPLO surgery usually begins in the $2000 range.
There are some organizations that offer to provide financial assistance for dogs needing cruciate ligament repair, and they are mentioned below. Also, there are a variety of other, more creative options for financing CCL ligament repair surgery including holding your own fundraisers, negotiating with your veterinarian or choosing the (typically) lower cost services of a veterinary university hospital.
If proceeding with surgical correction for your dog is not an option, be aware that there are conservative management techniques that will assist your dog in recovering from cranial cruciate ligament damage.
Is there any way to finance my dog’s surgery?
Some veterinary clinics will offer payment plans (unfortunately, these seem to be few and far between). However, many veterinary offices will give you the option of applying for Care Credit. CareCredit is a personal line of credit for healthcare treatments and procedures for your entire family, including your pets. This is probably your best option for paying for your dog’s treatment if your veterinary clinic is unwilling to work with you on payments and you are able to qualify. It works like a credit card but it has two advantages – it can only be used for healthcare services, and you can get no interest (make sure to read the fine print on this) financing every time you use it. If you pay your minimum monthly payment and pay off the entire balance by the end of your promotional period and you pay no interest. If you need more time to pay for your procedure, you can take advantage of their extended payment plans with fixed interest rates.
Negotiate with Your Vet and/or Veterinary Clinic
Veterinary offices do not typically advertise the availability of payment plans. This is usually true because they are willing to work with clients on a case-by-case basis depending on your history with their clinic and financial need/life circumstances. If you have an established history at your veterinary office with past on-time payments, odds are that your veterinarian will be willing to work out a payment plan that will allow you to pay on a weekly or monthly schedule, negating the need to pay for the entire cost of surgical care upfront. Don’t expect to receive this same treatment as a new client at a new veterinary practice – in this economy not many clinics are willing to take the risk of an unpaid bill, especially for a procedure as costly as a cruciate ligament repair.
If a payment plan isn’t an option – try bartering! Does your veterinarian need assistance walking pets, filing charts or catching up on other tasks? If you offer your assistance you just may be surprised what could things may come.
Find a Lower Cost Veterinarian
There’s no harm in getting a second opinion, especially when faced with an expensive, time intensive procedure. Get a second opinion. Yes, you will need to pay a fee to be see initially by another veterinarian, but based on their surgical costs, you could end up saving in the end.
Costs for TPLO, TTA, TightRope and Traditional Extracapsular surgeries differ state-by-state and also depending on your region – whether you are located within a city center or more rural. Veterinarians in smaller towns tend to charge less as they have lower costs for overhead, i.e office space, advertising, etc.
Many veterinary schools offer low cost clinics and provide options for pet owners with limited incomes or financial hardship. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website and has a list of veterinary schools by state.
Conservative Management Instead of Surgery
The use of Conservative Management is a topic which is covered extensively on this site. I have successfully rehabilitated my dog’s (Tucker) torn cruciate ligament using CM. There are also stories from many other owners who’ve had similar success without surgery.
Weight loss, arthritis medications and nutraceutical supplementation (glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate) can have a significant, positive impact on your canine’s comfort level. Knee braces and harness devices can also prove useful as you undergo CM – after reading some of the stories on this site you will have a better idea of the items you may need and will be able to prepare adequately.
Though in general this “conservative” approach is considered much less effective than surgical intervention, it does provide owners who can’t afford this surgery the opportunity to take responsible action. In fact, for most bigger patients, it seems that weight loss plays a major role in the recovery process for both dogs going through CM (conservative management) and those that have undergone traditional, extracapsular imbrication repairs.
Remember, there are many dogs that do well with just conservative management, and the smaller your dog, the more likely it is that they will have a successful recovery with CM in lieu of surgery. CM is not just a second resort for people unable to afford surgery, there are many owners that are unwilling or unable to put their dog through surgery, and they have recovered quite nicely with the use of CM alone. No surgical procedure will ever bring your dog’s leg function back to 100%, or pre-injury levels, so as long as your dog is healthy, happy and comfortable, you are making the right choice as an owner.