“Dog Needs ACL Surgery – any recommendations/advice as to where I should take him for vet services?”

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“Dog Needs ACL Surgery

My mother’s dog needs to have surgery to repair a slight tear in his ACL (aka the CCL in dogs). She lives in NJ in a 2nd floor apartment and the dog won’t be able to do the stairs after his surgery. My apartment doesn’t have any stairs, so we’re discussing the possibility of bringing him down here for the surgery and recovery.

He’s a 65lb border collie/lab mix. Does anyone local have any experience with this kind of surgery for their dog and any recommendations/advice as to where I should take him for vet services? I’ve heard good things about Atlas (though I’m not sure they do this kind of procedure), but as this is an expensive surgery, I’m wondering if there are better options in the surrounding MD/VA area. [Side note, this dog used to live with me in DC for about two years, so he’ll be fine (and perfectly comfortable emotionally) with apartment/city living for the duration of his recovery, especially since his activity will have to be limited anyway.]

Any input is greatly appreciated.”

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69 Comment

  • We had an excellent experience with SouthPaws (http://www.vcaspecialtyvets.com/southpaws) when dealing with special care for our old girl.

  • Tweet/Facebook message Kevin McCarthy from 106.7FM/Fox 5, his dog had it about a year ago.

  • I take my White German Shepherd to Atlas vet and absolutely love them, but I have done all of my dog’s surgery at Helping Hands clinic in Richmond, VA. They specialize in surgery and you have to handle all of the dog’s follow-up care (they don’t keep dogs overnight), but I CANNOT say enough good things about them!

    They are also incredibly affordable because they specialize in surgery only—my dog’s extensive dental AND tumor removal AND cancer screening cost $400, while I was getting quotes of $2000+ at Altas and other vets! Looks like CCL repair would only cost $995 at Helping Hands.

    Side note: massive thanks to PoPville and the PoPville community, who helped me find Helping Hands last summer!

    • +1 for helping hands. They did my cat’s stomach surgery for $800 when I was told $5000++ from everywhere in DC. If you’re comfortable with doing all the aftercare (it was minimal for my cat, likely different for a dog’s ACL), then Helping Hands is a great choice.

      Also a +1 for Friendship Animal Hospital, who did the initial diagnosis and some care while I figured out a surgery option.

    • emvee

      +100 for Helping Hands. I generally take my dog to City Paws, and even they have rave reviews for Helping Hands. Their whole mission is that no pet should be euthanized due to cost restraints, which is so, so great.

      • +another 100 for Helping Hands. They took such great care of my pups and I didn’t have to break the bank doing it. I got a quote for $7k in DC (place mentioned in an earlier post) to repair my dog’s cruciate tear back in 2011. HH’s price is currently $995. Great care, great price.

    • +1 for Helping Hands. They are terrific and really committed to helping people afford care for their beloved pets. My colleague used them this year and had a terrific experience.

    • +1000 for helping hands. If you can make it down to Richmond. They do an excellent job and at an extremely affordable cost (comparatively). We had our dog’s ACL repair done there.

  • Friendship Animal Hospital. They’re basically the Johns Hopkins of dog hospitals. If there’s a new way to reduce hospital stay and/or recovery time and increase outcomes, Friendship will be doing it.

    It may cost some $, but its worth at least a consult!

    • +1 for Friendship Animal Hospital and their surgery specialists on the second floor. After taking our pup to two other vets with no outcome, Dr von Pfeil was able to immediately diagnose the issue (superficial digital tendon luxation) and perform the surgery. Was it expensive? Yes.

    • I have to say I would not recommend Friendship. They are a teaching hospital, and it’s never made clear when you meet someone whether they are a full vet, or just a resident / student, and the price is the same. I’ve had a couple of truly scary experiences where they missed stuff that should not have been missed. I realize others have had positive experiences, but mine were serious enough that I would not recommend anyone go there.

    • They are salespeople more than caregivers. I went here for my mini dachshunds herniated disc (common in the breed). They looked at him, told me to let him rest and sent me home. I had to return the next day (less than 12 hours later) when he lost all us of his back legs (they charged me the $100+ fee again) and then told me that I had two choices, put him down or pay for surgery at $8k+. After crying in the lobby for over an hour uncontrollably they magically came up with a third solution, to call a specialist in Virginia (who then recommended a passive therapy using steroids and crate rest). Why wasn’t this presented before my break down? This was 4 years ago. He was paralyzed for 4 months until I began acupuncture treatment. He can no longer sump (probably for the best) but he is 10 years old and walks and runs around like 3 year old.

    • I’ve had good experiences with Friendship Animal Hospital, especially with emergency care.

      • The famous Maddy Beagle had knee surgery at Friendship last year and our experience with Dr. Mat Glassman (head of surgery) and his staff was outstanding. Since their remodel and expansion, Friendship has a dedicated surgery staff and suite, so you do not even have to deal with their general/emergency waiting room. The surgical coordinator, also named Matt, is the best mom-of-dog-patient manager I’ve every encountered. He was on the phone with me constantly and also readily accessible by email. The surgery went extremely well and the followup was excellent. Friendship is not the cheapest option, but they do offer a package deal for these very common knee surgeries that includes all of the pre-op workup and all of the followup visits and one physical therapy visit. When I had some concerns about how Maddy’s incision was healing, I was able to email pics of the incision essentially any time around the clock and see a member of the surgical staff on an hour’s notice, even on a Sunday. I really could not have been happier with the whole experience.

  • Friendship Hospital in Tenleytown would be my first choice for this situation. They just upgraded their facilities and obtained a high level certification recently as well. I don’t use them for all my vet services due to the distance from my place, but for a surgery definitely.

    • I agree with the calls for Friendship. While I haven’t brought a pet for surgery, their emergency and internal medicine departments are amazing so I expect the best of their other services as well. Lots of followup and making sure I was ok as well, not just my pets. Both times I was there they charged me less than was quoted too so I don’t feel like they are out to pad the bill. Still pricey but worth it in my opinion for the services we received.

  • If you’re at all worried about cost, Helping Hands in Richmond VA (http://www.helpinghandsvetva.com/) , saved my dogs life. My vet sent me there to avoid a $2,000 bill and instead I received a $600 one. They do great work.

  • Atlas Vet on H Street. Wonderful caring staff

  • My Golden Retriever had a similar type surgery six years ago at South Paws, in Arlington, and things have been wonderful ever since. No problems at all. The operation itself isn’t inexpensive, unfortunately, but I was pleased with everything about South Paws, albeit a long time ago.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Dr. Jeff does them all the time, but I guess you don’t want to go to Denver. 🙂 I think this is a pretty routine surgery. I too highly recommend Friendship for surgery. I took my hybrid F3 Savannah there to be spayed. I signed a contract that she would not receive Ketamine. The vets there were cool with that. When I went to pick her up they said “Her uterus was larger than we expected” (which is why I took here there!). She’s fine. I also like City Paws which is near me and took care of my diabetic cat.

  • While I’ve only met him and haven’t used him personally as yet, I’ve gotten great feedback from several people about Dr. Teich at District Veterinary Hospital, very close to the Brookland metro.

    • Dr Teich has been our vet for 7-8 years now — 110% recommend him.

    • LOVED everyone at District Veterinary Hospital. Prices seem quite reasonable, though admittedly I haven’t needed to look at surgery for any of my furry housemates!

    • Dr. Walker is great too! I don’t know about District for surgery though, thankfully I’ve never had to experience that.

    • +100000000 for Dr. Dan Teich at District Vet – he has been our vet for years. He tells it like it is, loves the hell out of animals in his care and is a pretty awesome human to boot.

    • saf

      I love him. We used to see him sometimes when he was at Dupont. He’s great.

    • Totally agree about District Vet. We’ve seen Dr. Teich and Dr. Walker and both of them are amazing. We had our sweet female dog Lucille spayed there and it was $150 cheaper than Adams Morgan Vet quoted me on the phone. They called me when the surgery was over to let me know how it went, took great care of her, and her recovery time was just a few days before she was back up on her feet. They’re great!

  • My dog just had this same surgery last week at Maryland Veterminary Surgical Services in Catonsville, MD. http://mdvss.com Your mom’s dog will not be allowed to use stairs for 8 weeks post surgery.

  • I’ve heard mixed things about Helping Hands (I looked at them for my dog’s $1000 tumor removal), but I was worried about some of the comments people had – that they’re using drugs and methods that aren’t in line with the newest research. But, I know some vets also recommend them, and many people are very happy, so I’d do more research.

  • I highly recommend Bradley Hills Animal Hospital in Bethesda. They’ve been taking care of our animals for over a decade now. Our dog has had a few major health issues, including surgery, and they’ve taken excellent care of him. Dr. Weiss is the owner of the practice and he is awesome.

  • VCA SouthPaws (Merrifield) and Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group (annapolis junction) are the two top-tier options.

    • Second VOSM.

    • Another vote for VOSM. Our dog just had ACL surgery there 2 weeks ago. They’re not cheap but they’re experts in this field and guarantee their work. I would not go to a regular vet for specialized surgery. The recovery has been tougher on us than the pup since we have to carry her up and down the stairs. One thing you can do to prepare is to teach the dog to use bed steps before surgery if they’re going to sleep in your bed.

    • KSamps

      I also recommend VOSM. Dr. Teich (noted above) was our vet when we lived in DC and he referred us to VOSM when our English bulldog needed TPLO/”acl” surgery. They’re experts and did a fantastic job (for the actual surgery and follow-up care). Not to mention the facility is nicer than most medical offices for people.

  • Dr Goldstein at Beltway Surgical Referral in Lanham is THE BEST. He did both of my dog’s knees. Compassionate, dedicated, and gives you the unvarnished truth. I cannot recommend him highly enough. total cost was around $3k. My dog’s second surgery was in January, so the experience is fresh in my mind. for the first one I had to deal with stairs. If you want the gory details, ask POP to put us in touch.

  • Another shout-out for Friendship AH. They are beyond great.

  • As If

    I really like Columbia Pike Animal Hospital out in Annandale. I drive out from DC to take my pets there. I used to go to Friendship Animal Hospital, but switched to Columbia Pike a few years ago. I find them friendlier than Friendship, and their prices are a bit better too. They do veterinary orthopedic surgery there.

    • Andie302

      Seconding this! Several of the vets there are friends of mine, and Dr. Tango spayed Mocha for us with zero complications. I also love that it’s an emergency vet, so it’s 24/7. This is convenient even for non-emergencies like follow-ups and blood work that doesn’t have to be scheduled. I can’t recommend them highly enough!

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Another thing to consider if you’re thinking of saving money by going to Richmond or Annapolis is that you will then have to take a day off work and deal with traffic. Friendship is open 24/7.

    • Take a day off to save thousands of dollars? That’s a no brainer for most who don’t live in FH.

  • Our dog had this surgery about two years ago, but it was at the NC State Vet Hospital in Raleigh, NC (#3 vet hospital in the country). He’s a 65 lb. Australian Shepard mix. I’m sure there are OK places around here too, but this surgery is complex, so beware of places that are charging cheap rates. At the end of the day, you want it done right and want to ensure that no infection or complication develops, as this will add extra expenditure. I know that Univ. of Maryland has a veterinary school. They do not do clinical work, but I’d recommend giving them a call to see who they recommend in this area.

  • You don’t want a recommendation from someone for a family vet. You want a surgeon. Go to Friendship Hospital for Animals, an actual hospital not a vet’s office. They saved our cat’s life five years ago after she stopped eating and lost half her weight due to some liver condition; she was in the hospital for a couple days near-death but came through and is sleeping happily across the room at the moment.

  • bfinpetworth

    This is a complex surgery with a variety of methodologies that may or may not be appropriate for your dog. I highly recommend researching the methods and speaking to experts in these methods. Simply going to a local vet isn’t recommended. That’s not to say that there aren’t good surgeons in the area, just that you need the right surgeon for this particular procedure.

  • I had good experiences at Friendship until I took my then puppy to be spayed. They actually nicked her spleen in the surgery, and then charged me for the treatment of it. I pushed back and eventually got them to take the spleen treatment off the bill, but they didn’t put anything in writing about cutting her spleen, which didn’t sit well with me.

  • Pender Vet in Fairfax, right off 66/50, has always been great and does it all.

  • While not for this surgery, my larger pup had great care at VCA in Gaithersburg (http://www.vcaspecialtyvets.com/veterinary-referral-associates) when she needed major surgery a while back. Great facility and the docs and staff were wonderful.

  • On the recommendation of one of the Vets that keeps getting listed here (that does not actually do that type of surgery) we went with Veterinary Sports Orthopedic Medicine Group. They are probably going to be more expensive but are the best in the area for this type of surgery.

  • My dog had TPLO surgery for this problem in January. We went to the Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine clinic in Annapolis Junction. They were recommended both by our regular vet (at Atlas) and my wife’s cousin, who is also a vet in the region. We had a really great experience with VOSM. They’re very good at explaining what’s going on with the surgery and how your pet is recovering and advising on how to meet the movement restrictions (we lived in a Capitol Hill rowhouse at the time, so it was very difficult to avoid stairs entirely!). Our dog is now fully recovered.

    They’re not cheap, but I don’t think TPLO surgery is cheap anywhere. As with any surgery, you really want someone who has performed the surgery many times, so a place like VOSM, which specializes in this kind of surgery, is ideal.

    • Agree with review of VOSM. I would also recommend Skylos Sports Medicine. Dr. Lotsikas started a practice after years at VOSM and has done two surgeries on my dog… same knee, different issues. She’s 6 and back running with us. He specializes in working and sporting dog performance. Perhaps more than you need, but his prices were on par with others. He uses the latest technologies like imaging and is super clear and supportive during post-op care. I called a ton in light of my crazy dog wanting to move around more than she should. It’s a tough recovery… you should definitely find out what they need in the first couple weeks. I’m pretty sure she needed observation and meds consistently that first week. It was good I could telework.

  • Just here to agree with all the others on Helping Hands in Richmond if cost is a concern! The staff is not only kind and compassionate but highly professional and knowledgeable. Richmond is a hike, but their staff can even recommend things to do while you wait.

    If cost is not a concern, VOSM is the specialist in the area for veterinary ortho and soft tissue needs. But, specialist, therefore pricey.

  • I’m an emergency veterinarian in the DC area and felt I should chime in here. This type of surgery can be done by some primary care veterinarians who have sought training for orthopedic surgery, but without a previous relationship with a vet like that, I would pursue a board certified surgeon to do it. Some primary care vets will also have mobile surgeons come to their hospitals on certain days of the week to do procedures like this, so if you have any kind of a relationship with a vet in the area since you said he used to live with you in DC, you might check with them first. Otherwise, you’re going to want either a surgery group like VOSM that has been mentioned several times below (though I know nothing about that group specifically except that they exist), or you should take him to a local referral specialty hospital. Friendship is the only one actually in the district, but there is The Hope Center who has locations in Rockville and Vienna, SouthPaws in Fairfax, VCA Veterinary Referral Associates (VRA) in Gaithersburg, and the Life Centre in Leesburg. There are others further out in Virginia and Maryland as well. I have the most experience with The Hope Center who I have had great experiences with in referring patients to and would recommend, but you should get a similar experience at most of these places. Their surgeons will have undergone the same training to become specialists in their field and will be keeping up with any new practices that may be beneficial for your dog.

    As far as Helping Hands is concerned, I honestly have no first hand experience dealing with them, though I did know that they exist just from word of mouth for last resort type of situations. I have no idea what their business model is and what kind of medicine they practice that allows them to keep their costs so low, but always keep in mind when you’re choosing pet care (for major surgery or for just preventative care), that often you get what you pay for. Your decision should NOT be based on price tag alone. I think it’s great that low cost options exist for those that don’t have the means to otherwise get the care they need, but typically the reason some surgeries and other services are so expensive at other places is because you’re paying for appropriate diagnostic testing to ensure the safe selection of drugs, for up to date anesthetic medications, for the expertise of the veterinarian and their technicians, for the overhead of a hospital who is maintaining up to date equipment to have available for your pet, for IV catheters to run fluids, and for appropriate anesthetic monitoring (both equipment and extra technicians in the surgery suite), etc etc etc. A lot of things in the veterinary world can be accomplished by cutting corners that you may never realize were cut, and it kills me that so many pet owners focus only on how much it costs. Make sure you get estimates that should explain where they expect your money to go, and ask questions if something’s not clear. That’s my 2 cents and the end of my rant.

    Overall, CCL tears are pretty common and I think if you do a little research before you decide on a vet, your dog will do great. It’s awesome that you’re trying to find the best options and are ready to give him that extra TLC at home while he’s recovering. Good luck!

    • DC Vet, thank you for weighing in from a professional perspective. This is really useful. For the original poster, I should add that in addition to the great experience with Dr. Glassman at Friendship recently for Maddy B. with knee surgery specifically, I’ve had very good experiences with the care at South Paws (abdominal surgery for my late Cocker) and Hope Veterinary Center in Rockville (cardiology and ophthalmology for Maddy’s buddy Harry). Both strike me as extremely well-run referral/specialty hospitals.

  • Dr. Shraeder at Suburban Animal Hospital in Arlington, VA has performed two knee surgeries on my 70lbs. pup. He is very well versed with knee surgeries especially the TPLO surgeries. I would recommend at least going for a consultation to meet him and the staff. I live in DC, but I made the drive to VA. Well worth, and he is an expert with knee surgeries.

    I have also taken my dog to SouthPaws for various issues. Great clinic and nice staff. However, we do not have experience here with knee surgeries.

  • I’d absolutely recommend Elizabeth Arthur DVM. She has a surgery only practice, and the closest place to me she works is Kindness Animal Hospital in Silver Spring. Our dog had a TPLO with her last March 2015 and had an excellent recovery.

  • Southpaw hands down if you need TPLO (i.e. metal brace) surgery. If it’s just a ligament swap, then I’d say Georgetown Vet Hospital. Be aware they aren’t supposed to use stairs two months post-surgery.

  • Just a suggestion to dog’s humans out there–you can get the Tile App that has a GPS tracker in it for about $35. Just put it on her collar and if she gets lost then you can click on the app and it pulls up a map and shows you exactly where she is. Just an easy way to avoid A LOT of heartache and anxiety 🙂

  • I took our 9 year old terrier mix to Helping Hands a little over a year ago for ACL surgery. It was a great experience. They were efficient and caring and the surgery was a success. I dropped her off in the morning, spent some time at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art which is nearby, and came back in the afternoon. What a fabulous organization!

  • + 1 to Richmond. We go to Manakin Sabot for general vet care often and it is way cheaper and has been more helpful. We go to Atlas locally but they aren’t quite as experienced. For example they quoted 800-1200 for a tooth that “had to be removed” when we were able to get a chip fixed / mild gum surgery done for $300 and more importantly save the tooth.

  • Our Labrador retriever has had both her knees repaired by Dr. Sallie Morris at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital in Laurel, MD. We selected Dr. Morris after consulting with Dr. Glassman at Friendship Hospital because Dr. Morris uses a non-bone-cutting procedure that dramatically reduces the recovery time and costs substantially less money. Her procedure (which I believe she developed) involves using a ligament from elsewhere in our dog’s leg to stabilize the knee, rather than cutting the bone and installing metal screws.

    My memory is that the bone-cutting procedure at FH would have cost $5000-6000 while the other procedure at RG came is at around $1000.

  • Friendship Hospital for Animals in Tenleytown is an amazing place. I took my dachshund there for his back issues and they were just incredible. Highly recommend them!

  • +1 We had a good experience there with TPLO surgery for our 60-pound guy. Cost was $4000, all-inclusive of follow-ups, meds, etc.–we got a similar quote from Friendship Animal Hospital. As an aside, we live in a 4th floor walkup and the vet who did his surgery was a bit more open to stairs (slowly, with caution) than some of what’s been said here and what I read online. My sense was that his view is that the total prohibition of stairs and movement is a bit outdated. We did no stairs at all for 2 weeks and slowly started integrating them and he healed great. Very short walks as soon as he could do them to encourage weight-baring ASAP.

  • My dog recently had this ACL surgery performed at the Veterinary referral center of northern VA. http://vrc-nova.com/. It is a very nice surgery center and they do a lot of this exact surgery. Everything went great she is recovering nicely. It is a long recovery though and typically will require some check ups along the way. The cost of the surgery per leg is about $4k. Recovery time about 3 months, first month is hardest.

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