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Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) Surgery For Dogs

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) Surgery For Dogs

If your vet has recommended a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog, you might be wondering what's involved. Today, our Los Angeles team explains the procedure and what to expect as your pet recovers.

TPLO Surgery For Dogs

If your dog has torn their 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.

After this surgery, the dynamics of your dog’s knee will be altered so the damaged ligament isn’t needed for stability. Since a dog’s knee is constantly bent at about 110º, it takes on load, or tension, leaving it vulnerable to injury. Torn cranial cruciate ligaments are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs.

For a dog, a torn CCL causes a great amount of pain, since the femur will rub against the back of the tibia, causing discomfort and inflammation. It's unlikely that your dog will be keen or able to put any weight on the injured leg.


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. This procedure stabilizes the knee, which is the most important outcome.

The damaged CCL ligament is no longer needed, and your dog will have use of the stable joint again. If you are considering TPLO surgery, here are some factors to weigh. You should take some things into consideration about your dog, such as their:

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

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

While every dog is different, the first 12 weeks after TPLO surgery are critical. Full recovery may take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. Recovery time may be partially affected by your dog’s size, age, and breed.

Though a bone graft will be secured in place by a plate and screws, your dog needs adequate healing time following surgery. During this recovery phase, you should:

  • Allow the anesthesia time to wear off
  • Pay close attention to surgical areas and keep them clean and covered to protect against infection
  • Restrict physical activity to allow time to heal (follow any exercise routines recommended by your vet!)

Remember that preventing infection and restricting physical activity during your dog’s recovery period is vital to their full recovery at this time. Dogs tend to heal quickly (or think they are healing quickly!) and want to get back to physical activity. However, your pooch could be raring to go before their body is fully recovered.

While on-leash walks for a few minutes could be advisable, avoid high-intensity activities such as jumping, running and playing with other dogs and pets. You’ll even want to avoid steep stairs to avoid your dog injuring themself. 

Though you can likely leave your dog unattended during the day to go to work or school, they'll 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.

Potential Complications & What to Do

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

  • Inflammation or infection at the 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 surgical staples in stitches

If notice any of these signs in your dog, your veterinarian can be a valuable resource - they may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend an effective solution.

Like people recovering from operations, your dog will need activity, too. As they recover, they’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 think your dog may have torn their CCL? Contact our Los Angeles vet specialists right away. Our qualified veterinarians can diagnose conditions, diseases and injuries, and plan treatments.

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