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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 trying to decide if Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery is the right choice for your dog? Here our Franklin vets explain the procedure and recovery process your pup will experience.

What is TPLO Surgery?

If your pooch has torn his cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in humans), you may want to consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) for your dog. This common orthopedic procedure is a very effective long-term solution for addressing this injury, and its popularity is due to its positive results and quick recovery time.

Surgery allows the mobility of your dog's knee to change in a way that the torn ligament is no longer required. Because a dog’s knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees, it takes on load, or tension, leaving it vulnerable to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs.

CCL injuries in dogs can be very painful because their femur bone will rub against the tibia, leading to discomfort and inflammation. Your dog will show signs of distress and likely won't want to use their injured leg at all.


During the surgery, the bone will be cut so the tibial plateau can be rotated where the tibia and femur work together. Part of the tibia will be removed and repositioned, so the femur won’t be able to slide backward. The knee is also stabilized.

The CCL ligament is no longer needed, and your dog will enjoy the use of their new, stable joint. If you are considering TPLO surgery, here are some factors to weigh. Think of your dog’s:

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

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 period, you should:

  • Allow the anesthesia time to wear off
  • Restrict physical activity to allow bones time to heal, but follow any exercise routines recommended by your vet
  • Pay diligent attention to surgical areas, keeping them clean, covered, and protected from infection

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. You should never let your dog run or jump right after TPLO surgery, they need to wait until their body is fully healed.

While it’s 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.

You don't have to monitor your dog 24/7, you should still be able to go to work or school, but your dog still needs bathroom breaks and minor exercise to prevent stiffness.

Avoid leaving your dog alone around other dogs or animals during the recovery period, as a dog playing after TPLO surgery may sustain serious injuries, and suffer setbacks in recovery.

By the eighth week, if recovery has progressed sufficiently, the vet may even be able to remove the stitches which are probably starting to get itchy.

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:

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

If your dog displays any of these signs, let your veterinarian know - they may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend an effective solution.

Similar to people recovering from an operation, your dog will need activity, too. As he recovers, he’ll appreciate a few new toys and attention from the 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.

If your dog is showing signs of a torn CCL contact our Franklin vets and we can decide together if TPLO surgery is right for your pooch.

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