TPLO Surgery in Dogs: What You Need to Know

TPLO Surgery in Dogs

TPLO Surgery in Dogs: TPLO stands for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, a surgical procedure used to treat cranial cruciate ligament disease in dogs. The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint. When this ligament ruptures or tears, the knee becomes unstable.

Without treatment, this instability leads to pain, inflammation, and eventually arthritis. TPLO surgery corrects this instability by changing the angle of the top of the shin bone (tibial plateau). The surgeon makes a cut in the bone, rotates the top portion to a proper angle, and secures it in place with plates and screws.

This procedure helps provide long term stabilization of the joint and eliminates pain. Recovery takes 8-12 weeks of rehabilitation to ensure proper healing and range of motion. Despite the long recovery, TPLO is a very effective way to treat cranial cruciate ligament disease and allow dogs to return to normal activity levels. The surgery has over a 90% success rate for eliminating pain and improving mobility.

TPLO is a complex procedure and typically costs between $3,000 to $5,000 per knee. The implants used are made of stainless steel or titanium and rarely need to be removed. While not inexpensive, TPLO should be considered if your dog is active or overweight, as it provides the most stable joint reconstruction for cranial cruciate ligament disease.

TPLO Surgery in Dogs

Is TPLO Surgery Necessary for Your Dog?

If your dog has torn their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), also known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans, your vet may recommend tibial plateau leveling osteotomy or TPLO surgery. This procedure can be expensive, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per leg, so you want to make sure it’s truly necessary before moving forward.

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Severity of the Injury

For minor CCL tears or sprains, conservative treatment like rest, medication, and physical therapy may be enough to relieve pain and improve mobility. However, if your dog’s knee is unstable or they aren’t responding well to conservative care after 4 to 6 weeks, TPLO surgery is typically recommended to prevent long term joint damage.

Age and Activity Level

Younger, active dogs tend to benefit most from TPLO surgery. Without treatment, a CCL tear can lead to painful arthritis at an early age and limit an active lifestyle. For older or less active dogs, the risk of post-operative complications may outweigh the benefits of surgery. In these cases, your vet can help determine if quality of life can be maintained through non-surgical options.

Consider Your Dog’s Temperament

The TPLO procedure requires an intensive recovery process. Your dog will need to remain confined for up to 12 weeks with only short leash walks. For anxious or high-energy dogs, this limited activity can lead to behavioral issues if not properly managed. You’ll need to commit to following all post-op care instructions closely and keeping your dog mentally stimulated during recovery.

While TPLO surgery has a high success rate of over 90% in returning dogs to normal or near-normal activity, it is not for every dog or owner. Talk to your vet about whether TPLO is the right choice based on your dog’s unique situation. With time and patience, many dogs can recover well and maintain a good quality of life without such an invasive surgery. But when it is necessary, the benefits of a TPLO can be life-changing.

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What to Expect Before, During and After TPLO Surgery

Before Surgery

In the weeks leading up to your dog’s TPLO surgery, the vet will likely order pre-operative blood tests and X-rays to determine if your dog is healthy enough for the procedure. They may ask you to limit food and water intake the night before. Be sure to let your vet know about any medications your dog is on so they can plan accordingly. You should also ask any questions you have about what to expect so you feel fully prepared. It’s normal to feel anxious, but know that TPLO surgery has a high success rate for eliminating pain and restoring mobility.

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During Surgery

The TPLO surgery typically takes 2 to 3 hours to perform under general anesthesia. The vet will make an incision to gain access to the stifle joint and tibia. They will then cut the tibia to reposition the knee and stabilize it using a bone plate and screws. After surgery, your dog will remain in the hospital for monitoring as they recover from the anesthesia. Most dogs can go home the following day.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

The initial recovery period lasts 6 to 8 weeks. Your dog will need to rest for the first few weeks with only short leash walks. Cold compresses and medication can help reduce swelling. Stitches will need to be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. Physical therapy and rehab starts around week 6 to help rebuild muscle strength and range of motion. Total recovery can take 3 to 6 months before your dog can run, jump and play freely again. It’s important to closely follow your vet’s recommendations to ensure proper healing and a successful outcome.

With time and patience, TPLO surgery can get your dog back to normal activity. While the recovery requires commitment, the rewards of seeing your dog pain-free and active again make it worthwhile. Just remember, the key is balancing rest and rehabilitation—not too much, not too little, but just right. If you notice any concerning symptoms during recovery, don’t hesitate to call your vet. But with care and attention, your dog should get back to being as perfect as always.

TPLO Surgery Recovery and Rehab

The First 6 Weeks

The initial recovery period after TPLO surgery is critical. Your dog will need to stay rested during the first 6 weeks. Confine them to a small room without stairs to limit activity. Offer multiple short walks on a leash for bathroom breaks.

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Incision Care

Check the incision daily for signs of infection like swelling, redness, or discharge. Keep the area clean and dry. Your vet will advise if bandage changes or stitches need removal. Elizabethan collars prevent chewing at stitches.

Physical Therapy

Gentle range-of-motion and massage therapy should start once stitches are out. This helps reduce swelling and keeps joints mobile. Cold compresses can relieve pain. Do passive stretches for 10-15 minutes a few times a day.

Rehabilitation

After 6 weeks, rehab therapy begins. Walks can gradually increase to 30 minutes over 4-6 weeks. Hydrotherapy or swimming can help build strength with low impact. Laser or massage therapy may benefit some dogs.

Home Exercises

Do simple exercises at home to improve range of motion and strength. Sit/stand exercises, walking in circles, and balancing on unstable surfaces are good options. Start with 5-10 reps of each, building up as tolerated.

Always follow your vet’s recommendations for activity restrictions and physical therapy. Rehab can take 3-6 months total. Be patient through challenges and relapses. With time and dedication, most dogs can return to normal activity.

Staying dedicated to recovery and rehab will get your dog back to full mobility. Close monitoring, physical therapy, and slow increases in activity and exercise will get you through the lengthy but rewarding process. Before you know it, your faithful companion will be begging for walkies and zoomies like old times!