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

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

Are you thinking of having Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery done for your dog? Today, our Mamaroneck vets explain the procedure and what to expect as your pup recovers. 

What is TPLO Surgery?

If your dog tears his cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, which is similar to the ACL in humans), you might consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery for your pup. This common orthopedic procedure often proves to be a very effective long-term solution for treating this injury. The procedure is popular as it frequently yields positive results and a quick recovery time. 

This surgery changes the dynamics in your dog's knee so the torn ligament isn't needed. Since a dog's knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees, it carries tension (what refer to as load), leaving it vulnerable to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury for dogs. 

A torn CCL is very painful for any pooch since the femur will then rub against the back of the tibia, causing inflammation and subsequent discomfort. Your dog will probably not be eager or able to put any weight on its injured leg. 


During this surgery, the bone will be cut and the tibial plateau rotated where the tibia and femur work together. Part of the tibia will be removed and repositioned. This prevents the femur from sliding backward. The fact that the knee will be stabilized due to this procedure is key. 

The CCL ligament is no longer required, and your dog will be able to use the stable joint again. Here are some factors to weigh if you are considering TPLO surergy. Consider your dog's:

  • Age
  • Health (does he or she have any joint problems or diseases?)
  • Activity level (Extremely active? Calm? In between?)
  • Weight and size
  • 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 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:

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

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.

Do you think your dog may have torn his CCL? Contact Miller Clark Animal Hospital right away. Our qualified veterinarians can diagnose conditions, diseases and injuries, and plan treatments.

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