What is TPLO?
TPLO stands for tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy, and it’s is a surgery performed on dogs if they’re suffering from a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. If you work with a strong surgeon, expect great results! Over 90% of dogs regain an active lifestyle with no post-operative complications.
What is the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)?
A dog’s CCL is much like the ACL of a human and is one of the most important stabilizers inside the canine knee joint, the middle joint in the back leg. The knee joint in the dog is called the stifle. The stifle is composed of three bones: the thigh bone (femur), shin bone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella). The knee joint is supported by four main ligaments: two on either side, and two that cross within the joint. The two ligaments inside the joint are the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) and caudal cruciate ligament (CdCL). The cranial cruciate ligament is equivalent to the human anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
What happens when the CCL ruptures?
When the cranial cruciate ligament tears, the dog is not able to walk on or put any weight down on their leg, and may start to raise it in the air. The tibia (shin bone) will move forward in relationship to the femur (thigh bone) while walking. During an examination of the joint, this looseness is referred to by your doctor as the “cranial drawer sign.”
What are the signs of a CCL tear?
If your dog is showing lameness in the leg and is unwilling to put any weight down, it’s usually a sign that there is an issue. Sitting with hind legs to the side and/or clicking or popping in the knee are other things to look out for. If you see your dog exhibiting these behaviors, it’s time to bring up TPLO surgery to your veterinarian if they have not already.
How is a CCL tear diagnosed?
Orthopaedic examination to check for discomfort and instability on stifle manipulation
Cranial drawer test
Cranial tibial thrust tests
Radiographs (x-rays) of the knee
Range of motion
Can my dog tear more than one CCL?
Studies show that 50% of all dogs who suffer a ruptured or torn CCL in one knee will have the same issue in the opposite limb – often within 1-2 years of rupturing the first one.
What are the risks of TPLO surgery?
Like any surgical procedure, there are risks. The number one risk you face is infection post-surgery. It’s important that you get detailed instructions from your veterinarian and surgeon to make sure you know everything you have to do to help your pet heal after surgery. Yes, they must wear a cone to avoid infecting the wound. Of course, as little physical activity post-surgery is very important as they need to rest and heal.
How long does recovery take after TPLO surgery?
Primary healing takes about 8 weeks but you should expect the healing process to take about 12 weeks in total. During that time, be sure to follow doctor’s orders, restrict activity, especially during the first two weeks post-TPLO surgery.
It is your job to help your dog heal properly and get the leg back to normal strength. As you manage activity, be sure to watch the wound carefully. It is important to make sure it stays clean and far away from your dog’s mouth, as licking can cause infection. Talk to your vet about managing discomfort experienced by your dog with ice packs and heat through different points of the recovery period.
Range of motion training is something that will benefit your dog in the long run. Talk to your vet about the type of exercises you can help your dog with, putting them through a full range of motion daily to get the leg back in action.