Are you considering Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog? In this post, we explain the procedure and what to expect as your pooch recovers.
What is TPLO Surgery?
If your pooch has torn his cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in humans), you may want to consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) for your dog. This common orthopedic procedure is a very effective long-term solution for addressing this injury, and its popularity is due to its positive results and quick recovery time.
The dynamics of your dog's knee will be altered as a result of this surgery, and the torn ligament will no longer be required. Because a dog's knee is constantly bent at approximately 110 degrees, it absorbs load, or tension, making it vulnerable to injury. The most common orthopedic injury in dogs is a torn cranial cruciate ligament.
For a dog, a torn CCL is very painful since the femur will rub against the back of the tibia, causing discomfort and inflammation. Chances are, your dog will not be eager or able to put any weight on the injured leg.
The bone will be cut during surgery so that the tibial plateau, where the tibia and femur work together, can be rotated. A portion of the tibia will be removed and repositioned, preventing the femur from sliding backward. The most important aspect of this procedure is that it 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 about your dog’s:
- Weight and size
- Health (does he or she have any joint problems or diseases?)
- Activity level (Extremely active? Calm? In between?)
- Post-surgery care and recovery
TPLO Surgery Recovery for Dogs: What to Do & What to Avoid
While every dog will be different, the first 12 weeks after TPLO surgery are a critical period. Full recovery may take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. Recovery time may partly depend on your dog’s size, age, and breed.
Though a bone graft will be secured in place by a plate and screws, your pup will still need healing time following surgery. During this recovery phase, you should:
- Allow the anesthesia time to wear off
- Pay diligent attention to surgical areas, keeping them clean, covered, and protected from infection
- Restrict physical activity to allow bones time to heal, but follow any exercise routines recommended by your vet
Keep in mind that preventing infection and limiting physical activity during your dog's recovery period is critical to their health at this time. Dogs have a tendency to heal quickly (or believe they are healing quickly!) and want to resume physical activity. He could, however, be ready to go before his body is fully recovered.
While it’s on-leash walks for a few minutes at a time may be advisable, avoid high-intensity activities such as jumping, running, and playing with other dogs. You’ll even want to avoid steep stairs.
Though you can likely leave your dog unattended during the day to go to work or school, he or she will still require bathroom breaks and exercise to prevent stiffness.
Avoid leaving your dog alone around other dogs or animals during the recovery period, as a dog jumped after TPLO surgery may sustain serious injuries, and suffer setbacks in recovery.
By the eighth week, if recovery has progressed sufficiently, the vet may be able to remove the stitches.
Potential Complications & What to 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 he recovers, he’ll appreciate a few new toys and attention from his doting 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.