Dog TPLO Explained

Dog TPLO surgery is a newer technique to quickly repair a ruptured cruciate ligament. The job of the cruciate ligament is to hold the femur and tibia bones in place. If the ligament ruptures, the bones will slide on each other, causing crippling pain.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery provides dogs with numerous post-surgery benefits. However, it is a newer procedure, so it can be expensive. It's also harder to find a veterinarian qualified to perform a dog TPLO.

What Causes a Ruptured Cruciate Ligament

While injury can cause damage to a cruciate ligament, the more common cause of ligament rupture is simply age. Other factors may include:

  • Abnormalities
  • Arthritis and other pre-existing inflammatory conditions
  • Incorrect tibial sloping

With increased pain, a dog will change his gait to alleviate the pain. This puts extra strain on the ligament causes it to tear and eventually rupture. In addition, the grinding motion of the bones will wear away cartilage and cause tissue around the bones to become inflamed.

Dogs may feel pain in that joint and even start limping on it, or stop using that leg altogether. Approximately 33 percent of all dogs experience cruciate ligament rupture. Some breeds are predisposed to the problem, but any dog can develop a tear or rupture.

How a Dog TPLO Procedure Works

Experts use a wagon and hill diagram to explain how a dog TPLO procedure fixes the bone and ligament problem. Imagine you have a wagon on a sloped hill that is connected to a post via a cable. If that cable snaps, the wagon automatically slides down the hill. Using that mental picture, replace the cable with the cruciate ligament, the wagon with the femur and the slope as the tibia. When the cruciate ligament ruptures, the femur slips off the tibia, causing incredible pain and instability of the joint.

A tibial plateau leveling osteotomy involves removing any damaged cartilage and the torn ends of the cruciate ligament. The surgeon will remove as little as possible to avoid arthritis. Once this is done, the top of the tibia is cut to remove the slope and a plate is attached to the tibia to hold it in its new position during the healing process.

Benefits to Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

Immediate benefits are apparent in a dog. TPLO patients are usually up and walking within 24 hours. Within the first week, the dog will start putting weight on the repaired leg. Within two weeks, many dogs are ready to get back to normal activity.

Veterinary surgeons generally have pet owners limit their dog's activity for eight weeks. After follow-up X-rays, the surgeon will increase the amount of daily exercise. At this point, short walks on a leash are often recommended. By four months, most dogs are back to normal activities. Working dogs may be required to wait until the sixth month before going back to hunting and agility routines.

The healing process depends on the depth of the original injury. Dogs with a fully torn cruciate ligament will require more rest than a dog with a partial tear.