TPLO Surgery for Dogs

TPLO surgery, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, is performed on dogs who have an ACL injury. Typically, this surgery is recommended for larger breed dogs, but the procedure has met with some success on smaller breeds as well. An ACL injury is very painful for dogs, and if left untreated can lead to a lifetime of significant lameness and pain. TPLO surgery for dogs is one of the frequently recommended choices for correcting this issue.

ACL Injury

The ACL is a cruciate, or cross ligament in the knee. The anterior (ACL) along with the caudal ligaments form a cross to keep the knee from sliding forward and backward. A tear or other trauma to the ACL can leave the knee vulnerable to free range motion. A loose knee puts the shin bone at risk of easily pulling out of place. All of this can cause excruciating pain for a dog, and can lead to even more significant problems. 

TPLO Surgery

TPLO surgery is a complex procedure by which part of the bone is cut, and the leg bones are re-sloped so that the ACL ligament is no longer needed. Simply put, there's a slope in the dog's leg bones, where they meet at the knee. Surgery removes this slope and reshapes the bone, forming a plateau, so that there is no chance of the knee or leg slipping out of place due to injury, tear or rupture of the ACL. This procedure bypasses the need for the cross ligaments in the knee. 


After TPLO surgery, you should expect a rather quick healing phase. Your dog may begin to walk again in only a few days, and put weight on the limb within a week. Healing from this surgery is said to be faster and more complete than other surgeries used to repair or heal the ACL ligament. Within 6 to 8 weeks, complete healing should take place with little to no lameness or pain. An exercise plan should be implemented, gradually increasing the amount of exercise over the next few months. By 6 months, routine should be back to normal, and any restrictions on exercise, play or work can be lifted. Recommendations suggest to have yearly tests administered to determine the degree of arthritis present in the area. While TPLO surgery should minimize the progression of degeneration of the joints, your dog will still likely suffer arthritis in the area.


TPLO surgery is often successful, but you must understand the potential risks. A dog that is too active after surgery may experience poor healing of the bone. Tibial tuberosity fracturing may also occur, at any time. This fracturing is due to significant stress upon the new bone structure, causing surface fractures where the bones meet in the joint. Alternatives to TPLO surgery are available. The most popular of these is conservative management, a plan that includes complete restriction of the injured leg, physical therapy, possible dietary changes and nutritional supplements. With this form of alternative therapy, the ligament is left to heal naturally.