What is Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery and why is it used for CCL injuries? Our Fairhaven vets discuss why you might consider TPLO surgery for your dog and what to expect.
What is TPLO Surgery?
There is a chance that one day your active pup might tear its cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, which is similar to the ACL in humans). Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. For a dog, a torn CCL is very painful as it causes the femur to rub against the back of the tibia, causing discomfort and inflammation. With this injury, your dog will not be able to put any weight on the injured leg or use it as normal.
If this happens you may want to consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) for your dog. This surgery is the most common and very effective long-term solution for dogs suffering from a CCL injury due to the TPLO surgery having a great outcome as well as a short recovery time.
A dog’s knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees which causes it to take on extra load and tension, leaving it vulnerable to injury. With TPLO surgery the torn ligaments are no longer necessary, as it changes the dynamics of your dog’s knee and your dog will have use of the stable joint again.
During TPLO surgery the bone will be cut and the tibial plateau will be rotated so the tibia and femur work together. Your vet will remove part of the tibia and reposition it, so the femur won’t be able to slide backward anymore. Most importantly, this surgery will stabilize the knee.
If your dog is suffering from CCL and you are considering TPLO surgery, you should consider other factors such as:
- Weight and size
- Health (any current joint issues)
- Activity level
- Post-surgery care and recovery
TPLO Surgery Recovery for Dogs: What to Do & What to Avoid
The first 12 weeks after TPLO surgery are the most important for the healing process. Recovery may partly depend on your dog’s size, age, and breed and could take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months for a full recovery.
Though the surgery will utilize plates and screws to secure the bone graft, it will still be a lengthy healing process for your dog. During this recovery phase, you should:
- Allow your pet to relax somewhere safe and give the anesthesia time to wear off
- Monitor the surgical areas closely, 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
During the time immediately following your dog's surgery it is crucial to protect your dog from potential infection as well as minimize their physical activity. Dogs are active and there's a good chance that your dog might think they are ready for physical activity before they actually are, so minimizing this activity as much as possible is crucial.
While you should limit walks to only a few minutes, any rigorous activity should be avoided entirely.
While your dog should be okay left alone for short periods of time, you should avoid leaving your dog alone around other dogs or animals during the recovery period as any incidents or excessive activity after TPLO surgery may sustain serious injuries, which could affect their recovery.
Your vet will typically remove the stitches around 8 weeks post-surgery if recovery is going well.
Potential Complications & What to Do
Complications with TPLO surgery is rare but not unheard of, some symptoms you should watch for are:
- 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 you do notice any of these symptoms then you should call your vet immediately for advice on the next steps.
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.