TPLO Surgery for Dogs: Costs and What To Expect

Four Minutes
Mar 20, 2023

A cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury on a dog can be similar to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury on a human. CCL ruptures can be a common injury in dogs and usually occur through slow degeneration rather than sudden trauma.

CCL ruptures cannot heal on their own and will need surgery. There are a few different surgical options. An immediate tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery can be a good option with a high success rate. This surgery stabilizes the knee joint, restores mobility, and prevents irreparable damage.1

Read on to learn about TPLO surgery, dog recovery time, and how you can provide the best care for your pet after the procedure.

What Is TPLO Surgery for Dogs?

When asking what TPLO is in dogs, you’ll first need to understand what the CCL is, since TPLO surgery repairs the knee after the CCL has ruptured.

The CCL is one of the two ligaments that connects the shin bone tibia and the thigh bone femur to the knee stifle joint. Both the CCL and the caudal cruciate ligament (CaCL) cross over each other inside the knee joint, keeping the bones stacked properly. This forms a cross shape, which is why and how they got the name “cruciate ligaments.”1

When the cranial cruciate ligament ruptures, the femur slides forward into the tibia, causing pain and potentially leading to osteoarthritis. 1

TPLO surgery restructures the knee in a way that makes the CCL unnecessary. In a TPLO surgery, the tibia is adjusted until it’s level and can stabilize the knee.2

The surgery involves a veterinary surgeon making a semicircle slice through the tibia and rotating the top part until the angle between it and the femur is level. They’ll then attach a metal bone plate and screws to hold the two pieces of the cut tibia in place. This lets the tibia heal at a different angle.1

Generally, the surgeon may keep your dog overnight to let the anesthesia wear off and monitor them after the operation.

Is TPLO Surgery Worth It for Dogs?

If your veterinarian recommends TPLO surgery for your dog, you may want to listen. A torn CCL is painful, and if left untreated, it can cause irreparable damage to the knee and could also lead to osteoarthritis.

This is because a torn CCL can cause tibial thrust as your dog walks. When your dog puts weight on the torn knee, the tibia can slide forward from the femur. This motion can be painful, damaging the cartilage and surrounding bones.2

Most surgeries repair the rupture of the CCL, however a TPLO configures the knee to work without it to restore mobility in the joint.2

Tips To Help Your Dog Recover From TPLO Surgery

Dog bones generally take 12 – 16 weeks to heal fully and get back to full physical activity, but many dogs are able to be back on their feet before then. A majority of dog TPLO patients can walk lightly on the injured leg within 24 hours and bear a moderate amount of weight on it 2 weeks after the procedure. 2

Here are some ways you can help your TPLO dog recover from surgery:

  • Obey recovery instructions: Follow any instructions your vet gave you for rehabilitation, including but not limited to medication instructions, keeping the incision clean, exercise limits, and physical therapy. 
  • Prepare your home: Get a comfortable dog bed and some mentally stimulating toys to keep your dog comfortable. If you have other pets, consider boarding them or keeping them in a separate room so your dog doesn’t get worked up.
  • Encourage stillness: Physical activity may create complications and slow your dog’s healing. It’s recommended to limit physical activity for at least 4 months after the operation.
  • Protect the incision: It may be suggested to keep your dog in an Elizabethan collar (a cone) for up to 2 weeks post-operation. This will assist in keeping them from licking and biting the incision, helping it heal and preventing infections.
  • Use ice packs: Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel to the incision as directed by the vet. This can help reduce inflammation and minimize pain.
  • Give pain medications: Administer any pain medications or sedatives your vet gave you per their instructions. Your dog may not be able to tell you when they’re in pain, which is why you should follow the medication regime prescribed by your vet.
  • Do physical therapy: Do any exercises recommended by your vet. There should be range-of-motion movements you can help your dog with to help strengthen their healing knee.
  • Offer mental stimulation: Since you’ll be restricting physical activity, it’s important to offer your dog mental stimulation. Whether you provide toys with food in them or interactive puzzle toys, these can help stave off boredom.
  • Try supplements: You can give your dog supplements to help reduce inflammation, boost their immune system, and strengthen their healing joints. Many supplements like glucosamine specifically promote joint health. Ask your vet for any suggestions to incorporate vitamins and minerals into your dog’s diet.

How Much Does TPLO Surgery Cost?

TPLO surgery generally costs between $1,600 and $5,300.3 However, this can vary depending on your dog’s size, breed, and where you have it done. The vet bill may also include diagnostic tests, pain medications, hospitalization costs, and more.

The cost of TPLO surgery on your dog adds up fast, but it’s truly the best way to restore a torn CCL and give them a better quality of life.

Injuries like this can make dog health insurance worth it. MetLife Pet’s coverage typically includes CCL ruptures and can help you afford to give your dog the care they need.A MetLife Pet policy can also help with recovery costs such as pain medication and physical therapy.4

How MetLife Pet helped a real pet family

A 3-year-old mixed dog from Pennsylvania had a CCL rupture. Her pet parents noticed her limping and whining whenever she tried to put weight on her right hind leg. They brought her to an animal hospital, where she was diagnosed with a CCL tear.

The veterinarian recommended immediate TPLO surgery to stabilize her knee. They also kept her overnight for the first stretch of her recovery.

The vet bill came out to be about $5,300 for the surgery and hospitalization. MetLife Pet insurance covered about $4,300 of it, saving the family approximately $4,000.3

Imagine having coverage that comprehensive if your dog ever needs surgery. Get started on your pet insurance journey today with a free quote.

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1 “Cranial Cruciate Ligament Repair: Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)” VCA Animal Hospitals

2 “TPLO Surgery in Dogs - Preparation, Recovery, and What to Do if They Jump,” New England Veterinary Care & Cancer Center

3 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022.

4 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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