Does your dog need Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery? Today our Hoquiam vets break down the details of this procedure and your dog's recovery process.

What is Dog TPLO Surgery?

If your dog has torn their cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in people), you should consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) as a treatment for your pup. This orthopedic procedure is relatively common and is usually a really effective long-term solution for mending this injury. The popularity of this procedure is largely thanks to its positive results and speedy recovery time. 

When this surgery is over, the dynamics of your dog’s knee would be altered so your pup won't require the torn ligament. Because a dog’s knee is always being bent at approximately 110 degrees, it takes on lots of weight, or tension, making it prone to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs.

A torn CCL is very painful for a dog because the femur will rub against the back of the tibia, leading to inflammation and discomfort. There's a good chance, that your pooch wont be eager or able to put any weight on their hurt leg.

Your Pup's Procedure

During the surgery, the bone will be cut so the tibial plateau can be rotated where the tibia and femur work together. Part of the tibia will be removed and repositioned, so the femur won’t be able to slide backward. Most importantly, this procedure stabilizes the knee.

The CCL ligament is no longer needed, and your dog will have use of the stable joint again. If you are considering TPLO surgery, here are some factors to weigh. Think of your dog’s:

  • Your dog's age
  • Weight and size
  • Activity level (Extremely active? Calm? In between?)
  • Health (does he or she have any joint problems or diseases?)
  • Post-surgery care and recovery

The Do's & Don'ts of TPLO Surgery Recovery for Dogs

Because every dog is different, the first 12 weeks following the TPLO surgery are very critical. It could take anywhere between 8 weeks and 6 months for your dog to make a complete recovery. The recovery time can partially depend on your dog’s breed, age, and size.

Though a bone graft will be secured in place by a plate and screws, your pup will still need healing time following the surgery. During your pup's recovery phase, you should:

  • Give the anesthesia time to wear off
  • Pay close attention to surgical areas, keeping them clean, covered, and protected from infection
  • Limit physical activity to give their bones time to heal, but follow any exercise routines recommended by your vet

Remember that preventing infection and restricting physical activity during your dog’s recovery period is vital to their health at this time. Dogs tend to heal quickly (or think they are healing quickly!) and want to get back to physical activity. However, your pooch could be eager to go before their body is fully healed.

While walking your dog on their leash for a few minutes at a time might be advisable, avoid high-intensity activities such as jumping, running, and playing with other dogs. You’ll even want to avoid steep stairs.

However, you can likely leave your dog unattended during the day to go to work or school, they will still need bathroom breaks and exercise to prevent stiffness.

Avoid leaving your dog alone around other dogs or animals during the recovery period, if your dog jumps after TPLO surgery they could sustain serious injuries, and suffer setbacks in recovery.

By the eighth week, if recovery has progressed sufficiently, your vet might be able to remove the stitches.

Possible Complications & What You Can Do

Though there are typically no complications involved with recovery from TPLO surgery, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian upon noticing any of these symptoms:

  • Inflammation or infection at the incision site
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Refusing to put any weight on recovering leg
  • Sensitivity to pain medications
  • Widely varying eating and drinking habits
  • Constipation due to medication, healing, or change in activity
  • Missing staples in stitches

If your dog displays any of these signs, your veterinarian can be a valuable resource - they may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend an effective solution.

Similar to people recovering from an operation, your dog will need activity, too. As they recover, they'll appreciate a few new toys and attention from the loving family.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect that your dog has torn their CCL contact our vets at Raintree Veterinary Hospital immediately. Our Hoquiam veterinarians are able to diagnose your pup's condition and provide you with a treatment plan.