Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

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Just like people, your dog’s knees get a lot of use. When ligaments get torn and need repairing, one solution is Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). Here’s what you need to know about TPLO.

What Is TPLO?

One technique for the treatment of cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is tibial plateau leveling osteotomy or TPLO. TPLO is a surgery that changes the angle and relationship of the femur and the tibia. The purpose of the surgery is to reduce how much the tibia shifts forward during your dog’s stride.

Does Your Pet Need TPLO Surgery?

A common injury to the knee of a dog is the tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). The CCL in dogs is similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in people. There are two cruciate ligaments in the knee, the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament. They’re called cruciate because they cross over each other inside the middle of the knee. When the CCL is torn or injured, the shin bone (tibia) slides forward in relation to the thigh bone (femur). This is known as a positive drawer sign and most dogs with this injury experience pain and can’t walk normally. The instability causes damage to the cartilage and surrounding bones, which leads to osteoarthritis (OA). A torn cranial cruciate ligament will often require surgical stabilization of the knee joint, especially if you have a larger or more active dog. The sooner the surgery is done, the sooner your dog will feel relief and the less chance of possible permanent, irreversible joint damage.

How Is TPLO done?

TPLO is done by making a semicircular cut through the top of the tibia, rotating the top of the tibia, and using a bone plate to allow the tibia to heal. The realignment of the surfaces within the knee helps to provide stability during a stride and reduce future joint inflammation and osteoarthritis (OA). Carefully adjusting the angle or slope of the top of the tibia replicates a more normal configuration of the knee joint and reduces stress.

TPLO Recovery

Pain management during and after knee surgery is critical. Be sure to give all medications as prescribed and use them until they’re gone. Physical rehabilitation will also speed up healing. Although infection tends to occur in less than 10% of all patients, it’s the most common complication after TPLO. Your dog will need exams and X-rays to ensure that they’re healing properly. The good news is that healing from TPLO surgery is usually quick. Here’s a general recovery schedule.

  • First 48 Hours – Complete rest is recommended for the first 48 hours.
  • 2 weeks - Moderate to complete weight on the affected leg is bearable.
  • 10 weeks - No longer a noticeable limp or abnormal gait.
  • 4 months - Normal walking and playing return, but stressful activities should still be avoided.
  • 6 months - Full physical activity can resume.

Getting through this can be difficult for both you and your pet. Here are some tips to make it easier for both of you.

  • Use A Friend - Depending on the size and energy of your dog, it might be hard to pick your pet up from the hospital and bring them home by yourself. Ask a friend to come with you to make sure your pet will be safe on the ride home.
  • Take Time Off - If possible, take time off of work. If not, find someone you trust who will take care of your dog for at least the first week.
  • Other Animals - After surgery, it’s important to keep your dog quiet and stress-free. If you have other pets who are calm, great! If, however, they’ll distract your dog or cause mischief, find a sitter or keep them in different parts of your home.
  • Enclosed Places - Your dog will need to be in a confined area where they aren’t tempted to climb, jump, or pull on things. A crate or blocking off a room with a baby gate are common solutions. If you’re not sure what the appropriate-sized enclosure is to keep your dog safe while allowing you to keep them company, just ask.
  • Cold packs - After surgery, you’ll need to ice the leg to reduce swelling. Flexible cold packs work well.
  • Passing The Time - It’s important to keep your pet’s brain, and mouth, busy. Engage them with their favorite Kongs, bones, or puzzles.
  • Seek Advice - Everyone dog is different. If something doesn’t seem right, just ask us.

If you think your dog needs TPLO, let us help.