Is TPLO Surgery Worth It? 

Small brown dog with post-TPLO surgery protective cone

TPLO surgery, short for Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, is a surgical procedure commonly used to stabilize the knee joint in dogs suffering from cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries. The cranial cruciate ligament is essential for stabilizing the knee joint, and its rupture or injury can lead to significant discomfort and lameness in dogs.

Dogs may require Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy surgery due to various factors, including degenerative changes in the ligament, trauma, or genetic predisposition. Recognizing that a dog may have a CCL issue can involve observing symptoms such as limping, difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg, swelling around the knee joint, and decreased activity levels or reluctance to engage in physical activities they once enjoyed, like chasing a ball or the neighborhood cat.

TPLO surgery becomes necessary to restore stability to the knee joint and alleviate pain and discomfort associated with CCL injuries. Unlike some other surgical techniques for CCL repair, TPLO surgery aims to change the biomechanics of the knee joint, reducing the need for the cranial cruciate ligament’s function and stabilizing the joint through a bone-cutting procedure.

Benefits of TPLO Surgery

TPLO surgery offers several benefits for dogs suffering from CCL injuries including:

  • Improved Stability and Function of the Knee Joint
  • Reduced Pain and Discomfort
  • Lower Risk of Arthritis Development

TPLO surgery has been shown to have higher success rates and lower complication rates compared to some other surgical techniques for CCL repair and following successful TPLO surgery and appropriate rehabilitation, many dogs can return to their normal activities, such as running, playing, and jumping, with minimal limitations.

Risks of TPLO Surgery

TPLO surgery, like any surgical procedure, carries certain risks and potential complications. Some of the risks associated with TPLO surgery include:

Surgical Risks

  • Infection
  • Excessive Bleeding
  • Negative Reaction to Anesthesia

Post-operative Risks

  • Implant Failure
  • Complications Related to Hardware

Complications with Recovery

  • Delayed Healing
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle Atrophy

While these risks exist, it’s important to note that TPLO surgery is a commonly performed procedure with a high success rate. Veterinarians take numerous precautions to minimize risks and ensure the best possible outcome for each patient.

Considerations Before TPLO Surgery

Before consenting to TPLO surgery for your dog, you should consider several important factors.

  • TPLO surgery may not be suitable for all dogs or all types of canine CCL injuries. Factors such as the dog’s age, activity level, and the severity of the injury will influence whether TPLO surgery is the best course of action.
  • You must be prepared to facilitate post-operative care for your dog and monitor them closely during the TPLO surgery recovery period.
  • It’s essential to understand the risks of not treating the CCL injury. Untreated injuries can lead to chronic pain, lameness, decreased mobility, and an increased risk of developing arthritis in the affected joint over time.
  • The recovery period following TPLO surgery can vary depending on factors such as the dog’s age, overall health, and the severity of the injury. Full recovery can take several months.
  • TPLO surgery is a specialized surgical procedure that can be costly, with estimates ranging from $4000 to $6000 or more, depending on various factors such as the location, the veterinarian’s experience, and any additional medical care required during the recovery period.
  • You should be aware of the potential complications associated with TPLO surgery, as discussed earlier. While these risks are relatively low, they should still be taken into consideration when making the decision to proceed with surgery.

In weighing the decision of whether TPLO surgery is worth it for your dog, it’s essential to consider both the benefits and the risks associated with the procedure.


  • Improved stability and function of the knee joint, allowing for better mobility and reduced pain.
  • Reduced risk of developing severe arthritis in the dog’s old age, as the surgery helps to restore joint stability and prevent further degeneration.
  • High success rates compared to other surgical options.
  • Surgeons often recommend TPLO as the best option for active, large-breed dogs.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential risks involved, including infection, implant failure, and complications during recovery. Despite these risks, many owners find that the benefits of TPLO surgery far outweigh any potential negatives or disadvantages of TPLO, particularly when considering the positive impact it can have on the dog’s lifestyle and long-term joint health.

TPLO surgery can significantly reduce pain and discomfort and while the procedure may be expensive, the investment in your dog’s well-being is often deemed worthwhile, especially for pet owners who prioritize their dog’s health and happiness.

Ultimately, the decision to proceed with TPLO surgery should be made in consultation with a qualified veterinarian or veterinary surgeon who can assess your dog’s individual needs and recommend the most appropriate course of action. By seeking professional guidance, you can ensure that your dog receives the best possible care and treatment tailored to their specific condition.  

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