If you're considering Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog, you may be curious about the procedure and what to expect. Here, our Middlesex vets discuss the surgery, potential complications and more.

What is TPLO Surgery?

If your dog has torn her cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in people), you may want to consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery for your dog. This orthopedic procedure is a common, very effective long-term solution to address this injury. Its typically positive results and quick recovery time make it a popular surgery. 

Post-operation, the torn ligament won't be required as the dynamics of your dog's knee will be required. Since a dog's knee is constantly bent at about 110 degrees, it takes on tension or load, leaving it vulnerable to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. 

A torn CCL is very painful for a dog as the femur will rub against the back of the tibia, resulting in inflammation and discomfort. Chances are, your dog will not be eager or able to put any weight on the injured leg. 


While Bound Brook Veterinary Clinic does not perform orthopedic surgeries, we are able to conduct an exam and refer you to a veterinary specialist if required. 

The bone will be cut during the surgery 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 slip backward. Most importantly, the knee will be stabilized as a result of the procedure. 

As the CCL ligament is no longer needed, your dog will be able to use the joint again. There are some factors to weigh if you're considering TPLO surgery. Think about your dog's:

  • Age
  • Health (Does she have any diseases or joint issues?)
  • Size and weight
  • Activity level (Extremely active, calm or in between?)
  • Post-surgical care and recovery 

TPLO Surgery Recovery for Dogs: What to Do & What to Avoid

While every dog will differ in their recovery timeline, the first 12 weeks after TPLO surgery are critical. Full recovery may take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. Your dog's size, age, health status and breed may factor into recovery time. 

Though a plate and screws will be used to secure the bone graft, your pooch will still need time to heal after surgery. During this recovery phase, we recommend:

  • Allowing time for the anesthesia to wear off 
  • Paying diligent attention to surgical sites, keeping them clean, covered and protected from infection 
  • Restricting physical activity to allow bones time to heal, but following 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, she could be raring to go before her body is fully recovered.

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.

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.

What Should I Do if My Dog Jumped After TPLO Surgery?

It's extremely important not to allow your dog to jump after surgery, as overextending the knee (stifle) may compromise the repair and slow healing time. That said, sometimes accidents do happen and dogs test their limits before they are completely ready. If this is the case for your pup, don't panic. Contact your veterinarian, tell them what's happened and ask for their advice. If your dog appears to be limping or in pain, or they suspect injury may have reoccured, they may ask you to bring your dog in for an exam. 

Potential Complications & What to Do

Though there are typically no complications involved with recovery from TPLO surgery, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian or veterinary specialist upon noticing any of these symptoms:

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

If your dog displays any of these signs, your veterinarian or veterinary specialist 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 she recovers, she'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 suspect your dog may have an injury that needs surgical treatment? We can answer questions you may have and refer you to a vet specialist if required. Contact our Middlesex vets to schedule an exam.