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For dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery may be a suitable treatment option. Our veterinarians in Halifax explain the procedure and what to expect as your four-legged companion recovers.

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What is TPLO surgery?

Our veterinary surgeons often recommend TPLO surgery to repair a dog's torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and alleviate pain in this area. A dog's CCL is very similar to the ACL in humans. Because the dog's knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees, this means it takes on tension (load) and is often at risk for injury. 

Torn CCLs are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. This type of injury will likely be very painful for your four-legged friend, since the femur rubs against the back of the tibia, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Your dog will probably avoid putting any weight on the injured leg. 

TPLO surgery is a common orthopedic procedure performed to address this specific injury and tends to yield positive results. The procedure repairs the knee in such a way that the torn CCL is no longer required. After our veterinary surgeon performs this procedure, the dynamics of your dog's knee will have changed so the torn ligament is not needed. Most dogs recover well from this surgery.

What happens during the TPLO procedure? 

During this surgical procedure, the bone will be cut and the tibial plateau rotated so the tibia and femur connect. Part of the tibia will be removed and repositioned, so the femur won't be able to slide backwards. The most important outcomes are that the knee will now be stable, the CCL ligament will no longer be needed, and your dog will be able to use their joint without pain again. 

Before recommending this procedure, our veterinary surgeon will consider your dog's age, weight, size, current health status, activity level, and ability to recover well from the surgery. 

How can I help my dog recover from TPLO surgery?

While every dog recovers from surgical procedures differently, the first 12 weeks after their TPLO surgery are key to their continued health and recovery. Your canine companion may take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months to fully recover from their operation, and recovery time may partially depend on your dog's breed, age, and size. 

A bone graft will be kept in place by a plate and screws. However, your pooch will still require time to heal after surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions on how to care for your pet at home as they recover. These instructions will address:

  • Giving the anesthesia time to wear off 
  • Taking extra care to clean and cover the surgical site, and protect it from infection 
  • Restricting your dog from engaging in physical activity to allow bones adequate time to heal, but follow any exercise routines your veterinary surgeon may recommend. 

Your most important priorities will be to prevent infection and restrict physical activity while your dog recovers from this procedure. Because dogs tend to want to be back on their feet and running around as soon as possible, they may want to get back to physical activity before they are fully recovered. 

Though on-leash walks for a few minutes at a time may be fine depending on the veterinary surgeon's recommendations, we do recommend avoiding high-intensity activities such as running, jumping and interacting with other dogs. You'll even want to keep your pooch on one level of your home, so they don't have to climb any steep stairs. 

Remember that while you can likely leave your dog alone to attend work or school during the day, he or she will still need bathroom breaks and regular exercise to prevent joints from stiffening. 

Avoid leaving your dog unattended around other dogs or animals while they recover, since a dog that gets excited and jumps after their TPLO surgery may sustain injuries and endure delays in recovery.

What complications can happen after TPLO surgery?

Complications are rare for dogs recovering from TPLO surgery. However, we recommend contacting your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to pain medications
  • Refusing to put any weight on the recovering leg
  • Widely varying eating and drinking habits 
  • Inflammation or infection at the incision site
  • Missing staples in stitches
  • Constipation due to medication, change in activity, or while healing 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

If you see any of these signs in your dog, your family veterinarian may be able to diagnose the issue, provide guidance and support, and recommend a solution. 

Don't forget your dog will also need some activity to prevent him or her from getting bored. He or she may appreciate a few new toys and attention from their favourite people. 

Veterinary Surgery at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital

Discovering that your dog needs surgery of any kind may be a daunting and overwhelming experience. Our veterinary team treats sick and injured patients from Halifax, Dartmouth, HRM, and across the Maritimes and is ready to guide you through every step of the process.

When your dog or cat is referred to our veterinary hospital, a pre-op appointment will be scheduled with our board-certified veterinary surgeon, Dr. Tamara Macdonald. She can assess your pet's general health and discuss recommended diagnostic tests, how the procedure will be done, any potential risks, and expected outcomes. Your pet's vitals will be continuously monitored by our team throughout the procedure. 

With every decision we make, we are focused on working towards the best possible outcome for your four-legged friend. 

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.

Do you suspect your dog may have torn his CCL? Ask your vet for a referral to our board-certified veterinary surgeon at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital. We are committed to putting comfort and safety at the forefront for pets in Halifax, Dartmouth, and the surrounding areas.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) Surgery for Dogs: Procedure & Recovery

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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