Does Pet Insurance Cover Cruciate Surgeries?

Does Pet Insurance Cover Cruciate Surgeries?


Owning and raising a pet can be a lot of fun, but it can also be expensive over the lifetime of the animal. When we get a pet, we know we can expect to pay for food, crates, treats, toys, annual vaccinations, and wellness checks. What pet owners don’t often consider are unexpected injuries and illnesses like ACL injuries. Many pet owners purchase pet insurance to help cover the cost of emergency injuries or illnesses. Does pet insurance cover cruciate surgeries like ACL tears? It depends on the insurance company.

What is an ACL Injury?

Cruciate or ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries are probably one of the most serious injuries that can happen to your pet, and they can be very expensive to repair. Pet owners spend approximately $1.3 billion every year on ACL surgeries just for dogs alone. The main role of this ligament is to provide and maintain support the knee. There are two cruciate ligaments crossing inside the knee joint, and they support both the lower tibia and upper femur.

The ACL keeps the tibia from sliding out and moving out from under the femur. If the tibia gets severely rotated when the joint is flexed, the ACL can become ruptured or torn. This injury not only causes the dog extreme pain but can be very complicated and expensive to fix.

ACL injuries generally affect older dogs, although younger dogs can suffer from this injury as well, especially excessively active dogs. Some breeds of dog are more prone to suffer from ACL injuries.

  • Akita
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier

And, according to Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, ACL (or CCL) injuries are just as common in pets as they are in humans. Cats can also suffer from an ACL injury, usually due to some traumatic injury.

What is an ACL surgery?

When a dog suffers from an ACL injury, surgery is usually the most consistent and proven way to treat the ruptured ACL. Even if the dog only has a partial ACL tear, surgery may still be recommended because partial ACL tears usually result in a full ACL tear sooner rather than later. The earlier the surgical repair, the quicker and better the recovery. There are a couple of different types of ACL surgeries.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) and Tibial Osteotomy

This type of surgery, most commonly used for larger dogs, involves inserting a metal plate to stabilize the knee and provide balance for the dog so it can put weight on the leg without pain or further injury. Dogs can usually resume their normal activities in six weeks, although some may take up to three or four months.

Extra-capsular Repair

This type of surgery, most commonly used with smaller dogs, involves stabilizing the knee using sutures or artificial bands.


This technique involves drilling small incisions into the bone tunnels to stabilize the knee. This method has fewer complications and is less expensive than the TPLO. The rehabilitation is generally quicker with the tightrope, but it’s not a good technique for extremely active dogs.

When a dog suffers an ACL injury and needs ACL surgery, the vet will usually give the dog a thorough examination and make his recommendation based on the dog, the dog’s size, the extent of the injury, dog’s lifestyle and the feelings of the owner.

Having pet insurance can often make the difference in the type of treatment and medical care the owner is able to provide the dog. Luckily, most pet insurance companies cover the cost of ACL surgery, although there may be some limitations or exclusions depending on the policy.

What about exclusions for ACLs?

Although most pet insurance companies will pay for ACL surgeries and treatment, most insurance companies have some sort of exclusions or limitations for ACLs.

Healthy Paws They will cover ACL surgeries on either leg provided the dog has no history of cruciate ligament problems or even a history of limping. If the dog showed any sign of problems in one leg during either the waiting period or prior to enrollment, neither side will be covered.
Nationwide Pet Insurance They cover ACL surgeries after the dog has had 12 months of insurance coverage.

After a 12-month waiting period, PetFirst will cover ACL surgeries, and they do not have the bilateral cruciate injury exclusion like Healthy Paws.


Embrace They cover cruciate ligament injuries after a 6-month waiting period, but a letter from a veterinarian can reduce the waiting period to 14 days.
Figo They also have a 6-month waiting period, which can be waived if a veterinarian certifies that the animal’s knees were otherwise in healthy condition.
Hartville They cover various knee and ligament conditions, including ACL surgery, after a 14-day waiting period, which starts on the first day of insurance coverage.

Estimated cost of an ACL surgery

The cost of an ACL surgery can vary based on the breed, veterinarian, severity of the tear, type of surgery and your location. The costs can be as low as $1,200 or as high as $8,000. While a simple ACL repair can cost from $1000-$2,000, a surgery requiring the TPLO procedure can cost well more than $2,000. There are also additional costs aside from the actual surgery.

A dog recovering from ACL surgery may have a lifetime prescription of pain medications as well as anti-inflammatory meds, human opiates, glucosamine and fatty acid supplements. In all likelihood, the dog will need rehabilitation for several months. All of these factors can drive up the cost of ACL surgery and recovery. Fortunately, pet insurance will cover a great deal of these costs. The amount they’ll cover depends on the company and the coverage chosen.

Pet insurance is a great way to cover ACL injuries, provided you have signed up your pet prior to an injury presenting itself.