How Much Does Dog TPLO Surgery Cost?

dog tplo surgery cost

When our beloved canine companions suffer from joint pain or injury, it’s not just their physical discomfort that concerns us, but also our own emotional distress at seeing them in pain. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery can be a crucial step towards restoring your dog’s mobility and quality of life. Understanding the financial aspect of this life-changing procedure is important, but the journey begins with knowing more than just the costs. 

Let’s explore what TPLO surgery entails and how it can bring back the joyous tail wags and playful leaps into your life.

Understanding TPLO Surgery for Dogs

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is a specialized surgical procedure designed for dogs suffering from a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), akin to the ACL in humans. This condition often results in lameness and pain, significantly impacting a dog’s quality of life. 

TPLO surgery aims to reconfigure the knee’s biomechanics, thereby reducing the strain on the CCL. Unlike traditional methods that attempt to replace the ligament, TPLO surgery involves cutting and rotating the tibial plateau, the weight-bearing part of the knee, to create a more stable joint. 

This procedure is generally recommended for medium to large-sized breeds, which are more susceptible to CCL injuries due to their size and weight.

TPLO Surgery Procedure Explained

The TPLO surgery begins with a thorough pre-operative assessment, including X-rays, to understand the specific anatomy of the dog’s knee. 

During the surgery, the surgeon makes a curved cut in the tibial plateau and rotates it to a more level position. This alteration changes the dynamics of the knee joint, allowing the dog to use its leg without the CCL. 

tplo surgery in dogs
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The bone is then secured in its new position with a metal plate and screws. This surgical approach aims to provide a more permanent solution by fundamentally altering the knee’s structure, thereby reducing the dependence on the damaged ligament

Post-surgery, the focus shifts to recovery and rehabilitation, which includes pain management, controlled exercise, and possibly physical therapy. The success of TPLO surgery not only depends on the skill of the surgeon but also on the commitment to post-operative care, ensuring a better quality of life for the dog.

Factors Influencing the Cost of TPLO Surgery

The price can vary significantly based on several aspects, from pre-surgery assessments to post-operative care.

Pre-Surgery Assessment and Diagnosis

The journey towards TPLO surgery starts with an accurate diagnosis, which involves various tests and assessments. Vets usually perform a physical examination, followed by imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs to confirm the extent of the injury and plan the surgery. 

These diagnostic procedures are crucial but can add to the overall cost. Advanced imaging techniques, while offering detailed insights, tend to be more expensive. Additionally, the vet’s expertise and the geographical location of the clinic can influence the cost of these assessments.

Post-Surgery Care and Associated Costs

After TPLO surgery, the focus shifts to recovery and rehabilitation, which is as crucial as the surgery itself. Post-operative care includes regular vet visits, pain management, and potentially physical therapy sessions. 

The need for specialized rehabilitation exercises, especially if done with a professional therapist, can add to the overall cost. Medications for pain relief and to prevent infections are typically prescribed. The duration of the recovery period, usually several weeks to months, also factors into the total cost.

Complications and Their Financial Impact

While TPLO surgery is generally safe, like any surgical procedure, it carries the risk of complications. These can range from infections to issues with the implants used in surgery. 

Addressing these complications may require additional treatments, medications, or even revision surgeries, which can significantly increase the financial burden. 

It’s important for pet owners to understand these potential risks and their financial implications, as well as to consider options like pet insurance to mitigate unforeseen expenses.

Average Cost of Dog TPLO Surgery

The cost of Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for dogs can vary widely across different regions in the United States and is influenced by several factors, including the urgency of the treatment, the reputation and expertise of the veterinary surgeon, and the specific requirements of each case.

In general, a dog TPLO surgery cost can range from $3,000 to $10,000 per knee. This variation is not only due to the complexity of the procedure but also reflects regional differences in veterinary care costs. For instance, in Northern California, particularly in high-cost areas like Silicon Valley, estimates for TPLO surgery can reach around $10,000, not including follow-up care. On the other hand, some locations offer the surgery at lower prices, with the lowest reported around $3,000​​.

At Colorado Canine Orthopedics, the average cost for TPLO surgery is between $4,300 and $4,700 for average-sized patients, with giant breeds incurring slightly higher fees. This cost includes pre-surgical x-rays, anesthesia and monitoring, nerve block or epidural, implants, and post-operative x-rays and routine go-home medications, although consultation, pre-operative bloodwork, and post-operative x-rays at 4 and 8 weeks are not included​​.

Another example is in San Diego, where the cost for TPLO surgery at a top veterinary hospital, including an overnight stay and various medications, totaled about $5,000. This figure does not cover additional costs such as rehabilitation, which can also be a significant part of the post-surgery expenses​​.

The urgency of the treatment can also affect the cost. Emergency cases may require additional resources and expedited care, which can add to the overall expense. Additionally, the reputation and expertise of the veterinary surgeon play a crucial role. A more experienced, board-certified surgeon may charge more, but this often comes with the assurance of quality care and a higher success rate for the procedure.

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Comparing Dog TPLO Surgery Cost with Other Treatments

When considering the treatment for a dog with a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits of TPLO surgery against other available treatments. These alternatives can range from less expensive non-surgical options to other surgical procedures that might be more or less costly than TPLO.

The Cheapest Treatment Possible: Conservative and medical management are the least expensive options. Conservative management involves a non-surgical approach that focuses on rest, controlled exercise, and physical therapy. 

Medical management aims at pain relief and inflammation control through medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and joint supplements. While these methods do not repair the CCL, they can alleviate discomfort and improve mobility​​​​.

Other Options: Other surgical treatments include Extracapsular Repair (Lateral Suture) and the Tightrope Technique. The Lateral Suture technique, which involves placing an artificial ligament outside the joint to stabilize the knee, is generally more affordable than TPLO and is often used for small to medium-sized dogs. 

The Tightrope Technique is a minimally invasive procedure using a braided polyethylene cord to stabilize the knee joint. This method can be effective for dogs with smaller body sizes and those who engage in low-impact activities. The cost of these surgeries ranges from around $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the type of operation and the vet’s office​​.

Choosing Not to Treat: Opting out of treatment for a torn CCL can lead to a decline in your dog’s quality of life. The lack of treatment can result in chronic pain, lameness, and the potential for secondary injuries due to compensating for the injured leg. Over time, the instability in the joint can also lead to degenerative changes like arthritis.

Finding a Qualified Surgeon for TPLO Surgery

When your dog requires TPLO surgery, finding a qualified and experienced surgeon is crucial. In the United States, there are several ways to ensure that you are choosing the best possible care for your furry companion.

Board-Certified Veterinary Surgeons: Look for a board-certified veterinary surgeon. These professionals have undergone additional training in veterinary surgery and have passed a rigorous certification process by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). The ACVS website provides a ‘Find a Surgeon’ tool where you can locate board-certified surgeons in your area.

Referrals from Your Primary Veterinarian: Often, your primary care veterinarian can refer you to a qualified surgeon. They are likely to know the reputations and specialties of surgeons in your region and can guide you based on your dog’s specific needs.

Online Reviews and Testimonials: Checking online reviews and testimonials can be helpful. Websites like Yelp or Google Reviews often contain feedback from other pet owners. However, keep in mind that online reviews should be taken as one of many factors in your decision-making process.

Specialized Veterinary Hospitals: Consider looking into specialized veterinary hospitals or clinics that focus on orthopedic surgeries. These centers often have surgeons with extensive experience in TPLO surgery.

Questions to Ask: When you meet with a potential surgeon, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Inquire about their experience with TPLO surgeries, success rates, and post-operative care. Discuss the potential risks and their approach to handling complications.

Cost and Insurance Considerations: Discuss the dog TPLO surgery cost and any follow-up care. If you have pet insurance, confirm whether the surgeon’s facility accepts it and understand what portion of the cost will be covered.

Tour the Facility: If possible, visit the facility where the surgery will be performed. This can give you an idea of the cleanliness, organization, and the level of care they provide.

Emergency and Post-operative Care: Ensure that the facility offers comprehensive post-operative care and has emergency services available if needed.

Remember, TPLO surgery is a significant procedure, and the expertise of the surgeon plays a critical role in your dog’s recovery and overall outcome. Taking the time to research and select the right surgeon is a crucial step in ensuring the best care for your pet.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA is a prolific pet health writer, occasional media personality, and a practicing veterinary clinician (for almost 23 years!).

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