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You may be wondering what the recovery process will be like for your dog after TPLO surgery. Today, our Laguna Woods vet describes the recovery process, what is okay and not okay after surgery, and how to monitor the incision site.

What is TPLO surgery?

First, let's define what the TPLO procedure is. The TPLO (Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy) procedure eliminates the effect of drawer movement. To reduce the tibial slope, a circular cut is made in the top of the tibia and the smaller portion of bone is rotated. To hold the two bone segments together, a special surgical-grade stainless steel plate is used.

How should I prepare my home for my dog's recovery?

A good rehabilitation plan is just as important as making your dog as comfortable as possible. You should decide where you will confine your dog during the post-operative period before bringing your pet home. Because your dog's mobility will be limited, we recommend that you use the following:

  • A dog crate that is large enough that he/she can stand up and turn around
  • A gated-off area such as the kitchen
  • Confinement to a room

Dog owners should consider using rubber-backed throw rugs or yoga mats to make it easier for their pets to walk on slippery floors. Hardwood floors, tile, and linoleum can become slippery for a dog recovering from TPLO surgery.

Are there activities my dog should avoid?

Yes, there are. Here are some things you get your dog to stop doing while recovering.

1. No Jumping

Overextension of the knee may comprise the repair of your dog's leg and cause it to heal more slowly.

2. No Stairs

Stairs should be limited to a short flight for the first 2 - 4 weeks following surgery. Longer flights of stairs should not be used for strength training your dog's knee after surgery, but they are permitted with supervision after 4 weeks post-surgery. If you have stairs in your home, use something like a baby gate to prevent your dog from using them unsupervised.

3. No Play

This one might be tough, but it is essential. Avoid active play with your dog and don't let them play with other dogs until your veterinarian says so (likely after the 8-week post-operative x-rays to confirm bone healing).

4. No Licking

A licking infection is the most common complication following TPLO surgery and is completely avoidable. Licking introduces bacteria into the area and, in severe cases, can lead to infection not only of the incision but also of the bone itself. This type of complication can significantly delay healing and potentially cause permanent damage to the leg.

Should I monitor my dog's incision site?

Yes, you absolutely should. The following table provides information on a normal versus abnormal incision site.



Swelling around the incision for the first week Swelling lasts longer than a week
Bruising on the Leg Discharge that is not clear, blood-tinged, or discharge after the first few days.
A small amount of clear or blood-tinged discharge from the incision site Large amounts of bleeding or discharge
Mild discomfort around the incision and the leg itself Discomfort even after pain medication and icing
Warm to the touch around the leg Discomfort that causes your dog to yelp or bite

When will the incision site heal?

The incision site should heal around 10 - 14 days after surgery. Please make an appointment with your vet so that we can remove the stitches, examine the incision site, and monitor your dog's recovery.

When can I increase my dog's activity level?

After the first two weeks, if your pet is recovering well, you can gradually increase the duration of walks by up to five minutes per week. By eight weeks after surgery, your pet should be able to go for one or two 20-30 minute walks per day, with a couple of shorter leash walks for elimination. It is critical to keep your pet on a leash at all times during the first eight weeks of recovery, even if they appear to be pain-free and walking normally.

What should I do if my dog is in pain?

Icing the surgical site immediately after TPLO surgery can help control pain and inflammation. For 15 minutes at a time, apply an ice pack to the incision site on the knee. After 4-5 days, switch to a heat pack and repeat the process. If your dog appears to be in significant pain or has completely stopped using the surgical limb, seek advice from your veterinarian.

As a pet owner, understanding what your dog is going through will allow you to provide appropriate care and help your pet recover faster.

If your dog has an injury the veterinarians at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital can diagnose conditions, diseases, and injuries, and plan treatments. Contact our team Laguna Woods.

New Patients Welcome

Laguna Hills Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our vets are friendly, experienced, and passionate about caring for the health of the cats and dogs in Laguna Woods. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

Contact (949) 837-7333