Has your vet discussed Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your limping dog? In this post, our Kittrell vets explain the procedure and what to expect as your dog 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.
After this surgery, the dynamics of your dog’s knee will be altered so the torn ligament isn’t required. Because a dog’s knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees, it takes on load, or tension, leaving it vulnerable to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs.
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.
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 backwards. 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:
- 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
Remember that preventing infection and restricting physical activity during your dog’s recovery period are 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, he could be raring 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 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 operation, your dog will need activity, too. As he recovers, he’ll appreciate a few new toys and attention from 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.