Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Written by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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If your dog suddenly starts limping or has difficulty putting pressure on his back legs, there’s a good chance that your pup tore his cruciate ligament (similar to the common ACL tear in humans).

The cruciate ligament connects the femur to the tibia at your dog’s knee joint.  The cruciate ligament helps stabilize the dog’s knee joint by keeping the tibia in its proper place.

A partial or common tear is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs.  Not only is it painful for your pup, but it can be very expensive to treat.

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FACT: Pet insurance pays up to 90% of vet bills when your pet is sick or injured!

The Most Common Symptoms of Cruciate Ligament Tears

  • Slight lameness
  • Swelling in the inner knee area
  • Inability to put weight on the affected leg

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Which Breeds Are Most Susceptible to Cruciate Ligament Tears?

Larger breeds are typically the most common to get CCL injuries:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Newfoundlands
  • German shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance

Most Common Causes of Cruciate Ligament Injuries

dog with leg injury

Acute Trauma to the Knee

Acute trauma to the knee will usually happen when your dog is running and suddenly changes direction.  This action puts most your dog’s weight on his knee joint and it can put undue stress on the cruciate ligaments.  Your dog will probably start to limp as a result.

And it could even happen if your dog jumps on the curb quickly and doesn’t land correctly.


As mentioned above, certain breeds are pre-disposed to Cruciate Ligament injuries.


As dogs age, their tendons are weaker and in some dogs, this can affect their walking and knees just as it does in humans.


A chronic form of cruciate ligament damage can be from the weakening of the ligament as a result of arthritis.  At first, the ligament is either partially torn and then with continued use, a complete tear occurs.


Overweight dogs, just like humans, are more likely to develop cruciate ligament tears.  The more weight that is put on their knees, the more likely it will be to tear.

Luxating Patella

Dogs with other knee problems such as a luxating patella are also more likely to rupture their cruciate ligaments.

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PetFirst saved his parents


A happy energetic Luna one morning couldn’t hold her food down. After months of multiple costly vet visits to specialists and an endoscopy, the problem was discovered and fixed. Luna put 22 pounds back on in no time and her parents were grateful for having PetFirst by their side to pay the bills.

Diagnosis of Cruciate Ligament Tear

Your veterinarian will complete a full physical exam of your dog first.

Then, X-rays are usually taken to see the extent of the cruciate ligament damage and rule out other causes of the lameness in the legs.

The X-rays will help your veterinarian to see if there is arthritis or fluid in the joint.  And if any bones pieces broke off when the ligament was torn.

Your vet will also perform what is called an anterior drawer sign.

The vet will hold your dog’s femur.   If the tibia has the ability to pull forward in a motion that is almost like a drawer being opened, this usually means there is a cruciate ligament tear.

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Cruciate Ligament Tear Treatment

Depending on the severity of the tear, there are a few options that your vet will consider:

Partial tears will usually heal on their own if you limit your dog’s activity.

Complete tears will need surgery.

There are different surgeries to stabilize the knee joint after a cruciate tear:

Lateral Extracapsular Suture

In a lateral extracapsular repair, the surgeon will typical remove fragments of the torn ligament and repair the menisci if necessary.  The menisci act as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia.

Then an artificial ligament will be placed outside the joint capsule of the knee joint.

This surgery is most effective in small dogs or those under 60 pounds.

A Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

With a TPLO surgery, a different portion of the tibia bone is cut, it is then rotated and stabilized.  Since the tibia is cut where the weight is usually placed on the femur, the idea is that there isn’t any need for a cruciate ligament.

This is a long, complex surgery that usually requires an orthopedic specialist.  It can be very expensive but also very effective in larger dogs.

What Is The Cost Of Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

When considering the cost of Cruciate Ligament surgery, it is not only the surgery that costs money but also the post-operation care.

There are the extra costs that might be necessary for such things as the follow up veterinary or specialist visits, different medications, and the post-rehab therapy that will factor into the cost.

The cost of the surgery usually ranges from $3,100 to $11,000 depending on the type of surgery required and other additional things which could be your dog breed and even the city or state in which you live.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Cruciate Ligament Tears?

Yes, but you need to insure your dog before any tear or CCL injury occurs.

And, 60% of dogs that tear one cruciate ligament will also tear the one in the other knee.

That’s why pet insurance is so important to get when dogs are young before any of the health issues become pre-existing.

If your dog is a breed that is more likely to develop a CCL tear, pet insurance is really worth the cost.

A plan like Healthy Paws, can save you up to 90% of the surgery costs and can even help with some of the rehabilitation and post-op costs.

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Dog Ligament Tear Recovery

It is important that you limit your dog’s activity for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.

Many dogs will receive physical therapy after surgery to help the recovery and to reduce any complications that might occur.

Depending on the severity of the surgery, your dog should be able to be fully functional in three months.

If your dog has arthritis, weight management is very important.

Supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin may help delay the onset of arthritis in your dog and help with bone strength.

Final Thoughts on Cruciate Ligament Tears

While cruciate ligament tears are painful to dogs, surgery can help relieve the pain.

If your dog is a breed that is pre-disposed to a CCL Tear or even just a bigger dog, pet insurance can be a serious help and money saver.

Especially if your poor pup has to have both knees repaired!

Just make sure to sign up for a plan while your dog is young and before this issue occurs.

If you are looking for a new pet insurance plan or just want to change to a new one, our top 10 pet insurance companies is a great place to start!


Other articles you may find helpful: 

Is Exotic Pet Insurance Necessary? 

The Best Pet Insurance By State 

What Is Pet Insurance?

Fun Facts, Dog FAQ, And Unsolicited Dog Advice

5 Training Commands to Save Your Dog’s Life

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Foods for Dogs

Dog Health Problems

Dog Breeds


Cat Health Problems

Cat Breeds


We get it, your dog is like your child and when your puppy or dog has health problems it is scary. Luckily there is pet insurance companies that will help you pay for any veterinarian care they made need. Checkout the best puppy and dog pet insurance companies and learn about common puppy health issues and ailments in older pets


Common Health Problems:

Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs

Alopecia in Dogs

Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs

Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

Arthritis In Dogs

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Cataracts In Dogs

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Collie Eye Anomaly In Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Tear in Dogs

Cryptorchidism in Dogs

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy | Spinal Cord Disease In Dogs

Dementia in Dogs | Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Demodicosis In Dogs

Dental Problems in Dogs

Diabetes In Dogs

Dog Comedones (Schnauzer Bumps)

Dog Diarrhea: What Can You Do To Help?

Dog Ear Infections

Dystocia in Dogs

Ectropion in Dogs

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Entropion In Dogs

Eye Problems in Dogs

Fleas in Dogs

Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs

Gallstones in Dogs

Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Glaucoma in Dogs

Heart Murmurs In Dogs | How To Identify Them

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hot Spots On Dogs

Hyperparathyroidism In Dogs

Hypothyroidism In Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs

Nasal Solar Dermatitis In Dogs

Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Progressive Retinal Atrophy In Dogs

Renal Failure in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs

Wobbler Syndrome In Dogs

The Dog Flu – Symptoms & Treatment for Canine Influenza

Dog Biting Nails