Can a Dog Live with a Torn ACL – Surgery Cost & Euthanize Options

Dogs are fun-lovers; they play harder than most people. When they are happy, they are standing on their hind limbs, having a good chance, or trying to figure out their tails. It is always heartbreaking to watch your dog have an injury that prevents them from playing around.

There are many reasons a dog might remain sedentary, far from its usual hustle-bustle nature. One of such reasons is an injury known as ACL injury. ACL is an acronym for an Anterior cruciate ligament: a ligament in the knee that helps your dog keep its mobility.

An ACL injury is a tear of this ligament, right at the anterior part of your dog’s knee.

When dogs have ACL injuries, it could be a living hell for them, and it ultimately leads to a reduction in your dog’s quality of life.

ACL surgery costs a lot sometimes, and due to a lack of insurance and cash, most pet owners cannot have the surgery. Another thing with ACL surgeries could be that the surgery did not work out as expected. Several issues relating to discourse leads to euthanasia being another option on everyone’s lips.

The next sections in these posts do justice to why most people decide on euthanasia for their dogs with ACL injuries. Sub-topics covered here in this post:

  • What time is right for euthanizing dogs with ACL injuries
  • Is it possible to live comfortably with an injured/torn ACL?
  • Your dog’s breed is a factor that can influence its quality of life
  • Dog breeds that are most vulnerable to injuries.
  • The way an ACL injury can impact your dog’s quality of life.
  • Is it possible for dogs to recover without having surgery?
  • What if the surgery is too costly and you cannot afford it?
  • An estimate of the cost of ACL surgery.

What Time Is Right for Euthanizing Dogs with ACL injuries

If you do not make use of an insurance policy for your dog’s surgery, then you might just have to let go of your dog via euthanasia.

Although there are many available medications for the management of your dog, yet, the older your dog gets, the more the pain. The excruciating and discomforting pain that your dog has to go through while aging might outweigh the need for just medications. The best option might just be euthanasia.

How is your dog in pain? This is the single most important question that determines your decision. Here are some questions you should answer when you need to decide on euthanasia:

  • Can my dog move freely with no pain?
  • Is it possible for your vet to accurately predict the success of the ACL surgery?
  • Can your canine have a sound sleep, free from pain?
  • Does your dog need to lie down or stand with no help from you??
  • Does your dog eat without being assisted by you?
  • Do you have the means to pay for an ACL surgery for your dog?

Never take any decision without consulting your veterinarian. Engage your vet on all these questions put forward.

Is It Possible to Live Comfortably with An Injured/Torn ACL?

It might not be necessary for you to take the route of euthanasia of your dog can live comfortably and meet specific criteria. First, you must speak with your vet about the expected quality of life. There is a possibility for survival with a torn ACL, but usually, the best option is to opt-in for surgery.

Many times, your dog goes through a lot of pain when it has an ACL injury. When you do not opt-in for surgery, all that your vet can do is to give drugs for pain relief and treat symptomatically. You might just have to stay with pain relievers and other symptom-alleviating drugs.

As time goes on, your dog’s body would compensate for the tear in the ACL, leading to the formation of scar tissue, making the joint stiff. In the long run, there would be reduced mobility, and engaging in movements would be hard for your dog.

With aging comes arthritis for your dog; as it grows older, its joints become much more prone to having arthritis. The affected knee is more prone to having arthritis, which is incurable by any surgical means. So far, there has not been any surgical procedure that can completely take care of an arthritic joint in dogs.

Your Dog’s Breed Is A Factor That Can Influence its Quality of Life

One major factor that determines the most appropriate time to euthanize your dog with an ACL injury is its size and breed. The breed of dogs that are most prone to ACL injuries is the larger dogs. Their weight is a factor that can on its own make them have ACL injuries easily.

It is more of a headache for bigger dogs to come down with ACL injuries, as they cannot conveniently distribute their weight. They end up putting more weight over the injury and hence live in more pain. So, without surgical intervention, large dog breeds will come down with severe pains.

This, therefore, brings us to a conclusion that due to genetic makeup or due to size, some breeds suffer from this injury than others. 

Here are a few dog breeds that are listed as the most vulnerable to ACL injuries:

  • Labrador retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Golden retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • St. Bernard
  • Bichon Frise
  • Newfoundland

The Way an ACL Injury Can Impact Your Dog’s Quality of Life

It is not always glaring that your dog has come down with an ACL tear, especially if it is very negligible and small. However, when the tear gets large, the signs cannot be ignored. Some of these signs include swelling, redness, immobility, instability, and a change of walking gait.

Your dog gets lamer as the injury progresses, and finally, it loses the ability to walk. When this happens, it is a sure sign that things have become much worse, and it is best to put down your dog.

Torn ACL injuries can start up a cascade of events that ultimately lead to the spine being affected. First, the dog becomes sedentary, leading to weight gain. Then the weight gain changes your dog’s walking gait, ultimately affecting spine curvature.

Is it possible for dogs to recover without having Surgery?

Certain dogs can comfortably live without having surgery for their torn ACL; this, however, isn’t the general case. It varies from dog to dog, the ability to live without surgery, but like has been previously stated, it is difficult for larger dogs.

Based on findings, the most common surgery that veterinarians carry out is torn ACL surgery. The problem here is that it is a very costly procedure that doesn’t have a 100% guarantee of success. Therefore, euthanasia might just be the best option to follow.

What If the Surgery is Too Costly and you Cannot Afford It?

Euthanasia might not necessarily have to be the next option for your dog if you do not have money for the procedure.  As sad as it sounds, that might be the only way to save your dog from pain, but is it the only way? There are ways to manage the case symptomatically. Some of them include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Injection and Medications
  • Leg brace

An Estimate of the Cost of ACL Surgery

The major reason why most people will most likely decide to put down their dogs is the cost of the surgery. It is a very expensive procedure. In the United States, the cost of an ACL procedure is between $2000 and $3000 for each knee.

For most dog owners, the option of giving the dog pain-killers seems more acceptable than euthanasia. However, if we consider the cost of the injection every month and the pain your dog has to go through, it’ll only be best to say put your dog down. The total cost of the medications and injections can be overwhelming and unnecessary.

The knee braces for your dog is also very costly as the price ranges from $400 to about $700. Having this in front of us and at the back of our minds, is it worth it to pay for the surgery? Since the braces even cost a lot, why then should we have surgery as an option?

One option you can also try out is to meet a local vet school. They will most likely carry out the surgery for you at a very little cost than that of a regular veterinarian.


All the opinions that have been shared and communicated are indeed valid and very relevant for you. The best thing to always do is to seek expert advice on this subject. Make sure you take your pet to the veterinarian, ask questions, and get the necessary advice.

The onus lies on you regarding the decision to be made over your dog’s ACL injury. Every decision you should make should always put the present sufferings of your dog first before sentiments.

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