The TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery has become one of the most popular orthopedic surgeries performed on dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament, also commonly referred to as a dog’s torn ACL.
Developed by Dr. Barclay Slocum, the TPLO surgery was originally considered a radical procedure for addressing canine ACL injuries. Now in existence for over 20 years, the surgery has proven itself time and time again, to be an extremely effective long-term solution for addressing this injury in dogs, providing quicker recovery and superior long-term results.
The philosophy behind the TPLO surgery is to completely change the dynamics of the dog’s knee so that the torn ligament becomes irrelevant to the stability of the knee itself
Sounds complex, right….don’t worry I am going to show you exactly how it works.
When your dog stands, if you look from the side, you can see that your dog’s knee is bent, at a slight degree of flexion averaging around 110 degrees.
Because of this bending (ie. flexion), the ACL inside the knee joint is always load-bearing, meaning it always has tension on it. In this case Tension = Stress.
This constant tension or stress on the dog’s ACL, therefore makes this ligament the most susceptible to injury. In fact, injury to this ligament is hands-down the most common orthopedic injury in dogs.
When a dog tears its ACL, every time the dog goes to stand or put weight on the leg, the femur slides/rubs on the back of the tibia. This rubbing causes pain and inflammation, which is very uncomfortable. This is why most dogs with a torn ACL will not even put any weight on the leg, or if they do, they will just toe touch the leg to the ground.
The true beauty of TPLO surgery is that it completely alters the dynamics of the knee. Once the bone is cut and the tibial plateau is rotated, where the femur and the tibia communicate, no longer can the femur slide backward. The knee is immediately stabilized. Doing so, eliminates the need for the ACL ligament entirely and returns stability to the joint immediately.
Quickly after surgery dogs who have TPLO surgery will begin to use the limb again. In fact, in most cases, the dogs are weight-bearing literally the day of surgery if not the next day. That said if your dog does not use the leg for a few days…don’t freak ok, its ok, every dog is different. RETURN TO TOP
The cost of TPLO surgery can vary dramatically depending on who is doing the surgery, where the surgery is being performed, and what part of the country you live in. The average cost ranges from $3500 – $5500. In most cases, this total cost includes pre-surgery blood work, anesthesia, anesthesia monitoring, pain medication, the surgery itself, post-surgery care, and to-go-home medications. Some hospitals may even include post-surgical physical therapy available at their hospital. RETURN TO TOP
There are several alternatives to TPLO surgery. Although the TPLO is a great surgery to repair a torn ACL in dogs, it is not the only option, therefore it is best to have a conversation with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon and discuss which option would be best for your dog.
But before discussing the alternatives to TPLO surgery there are several things that should be considered in order to choose the best surgery option for your dog. Make sure that when you are discussing with your veterinarian or surgeon you bring up these considerations.
Here is a list of things to consider:
- Age of our dog
- Size & weight of the dog
- Is your dog calm or super active or somewhere in-between?
- Financial considerations ie. many of these surgery options vary in price
- After Surgery Care
- Degree of joint disease. ie. Arthritis
- Is the surgeon a board-certified orthopedic surgeon or a general practitioner with advanced skills
- Will there be access to a canine rehabilitation facility after surgery
Now that you have identified the most important factors, let’s discuss the most common alternatives to TPLO surgery.
Regardless of which surgery you choose the key to long-term success is in the aftercare ie. what kind of physical therapy they receive after surgery. In the short period of time from when your dog injures themselves to when they finally have surgery to correct the injury, it is astonishing just how fast they begin to lose muscle mass and range of motion in the knee.
Thankfully modern-day animal medicine now has physical therapy for animals available. The trained professionals have advanced training in the aftercare of surgery that is critical to long-term success. In fact more and more, larger animal hospitals have physical therapy departments built into their suite of comprehensive services. If your hospital does not have a canine rehabilitation facility in-house then check our directory of independent facilities in your area. RETURN TO TOP
The first 12 weeks following the TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery are the most critical time for recovery yet as with many major orthopedic injuries full recovery can take up to 6 months.
As mentioned before the best-case scenario is that you find a professional canine rehabilitation facility in your area and set up an appointment for soon after your dog’s surgery. That being said, you the mom, or dad also need to take it upon yourself to get informed on how you can play an active role in helping your dog recover.
Here at TopDog Health, we have created informative step-by-step guides to help pet owners like yourself learn the essentials on how you can best help your dog after surgery. We call these guides TopDog’s Home Therapy Guides for Pet Owners and we provide the digital/pdf version completely for free to pet owners. You can download your free TPLO Home Therapy Guide here.
There are a number of therapies and exercises that can do right in the comfort of your home to help decrease your dog’s pain and when done correctly and introduced at the proper time, you will significantly improve your dog’s chances for a safe and successful recovery.
Even though the surgery corrected the structural problem quickly, it is the post-surgical therapy and exercises that will truly make the surgery a success.
Remember that like humans, not all dogs recover at the same speed. It is best to be conservative and consistent. RETURN TO TOP
Hands down the #1 complication of TPLO surgery is INFECTION.
The source of infection most of the time is when the pet owner allows the dog to lick at the surgery site. It is well understood that all pet owners absolutely hate the E-Collar ie. lampshade, that is put on dogs after surgery. Often, we feel bad for the dog and therefore remove it at times where we are “watching” them. The fact of the matter is…
it only takes seconds for them to infect the wound.
The 2nd most common complication is due to OVER-ACTIVITY TOO EARLY.
Often with the TPLO surgery the dogs “feel” good. Whatever you do…don’t be one of these statistics. Over-activity can be devastating with regards to the TPLO. Remember this surgery involves cutting bone, therefore essentially there is a broken bone that needs to heal.
Primary healing takes a minimum of 8 weeks.
Your dog is like a family member so you want to make the right decision regarding their health.
Be sure to do your research. Ask your veterinarian lots of questions. And lastly…
- Learn: Educate yourself on how you can personally help your dog recover safely and successfully after surgery.
- Click here to download: TopDog’s Home Rehabilitation Guide for TPLO Surgery
- Find a canine rehabilitation facility in your area
- Nurture: Provide them with the essential nutrients their joints need (ie. A high-quality joint supplement)
- Check out TopDog’s Joint Supplement for Post Surgery Dogs or find another brand that works for you and your pet.
- **Warning** When it comes to joint health supplements…buyers beware….when it comes to the health of your dog make sure to use only top veterinary trusted products.
- Patience: Understand that FULL recovery takes time (often upwards of 6 months), therefore be patient and consistent.