TPLO Surgery in Dogs

Are you considering Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog? In this post, we explain the procedure and what to expect as your pooch recovers.

What is TPLO Surgery?

If your dog has torn their cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in humans), you may need to consider TPLO (Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy) for your dog. This common orthopedic procedure is an effective solution, that is long-lasting to address this injury, and it is very popular due to its positive results and quick recovery time.

After this surgery, the dynamics of your dog’s knee will be altered so the torn ligament isn’t 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.

For a dog, a torn CCL is very painful since the femur will rub against the back of the tibia, causing discomfort and inflammation. Chances are, your dog will not be eager 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. Most importantly, this procedure stabilizes the knee.

The 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.

Think of your dogs:
  • Age
  • Weight and size
  • Health (does he or she have any joint problems or underlying conditions that could cause complications?)
  • Activity level (Extremely active? Not Active? Average?)
  • Post-surgery care and recovery

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 critical periods. 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 phase, you should:

  • Give the anesthesia time to wear off
  • Pay attention to the areas where the surgery occurred making sure to keep them clean, covered, and protected from infection
  • Limit physical activity to allow bones time to heal, but follow any exercise routines recommended by your vet.
  • While your dog is on-leash walking you should 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, jumping and playing can be dangerous and affect our dog's recovery.
  • After about 8 weeks, the recovery should have progressed sufficiently, and the vet may be able to remove the stitches.

Remember that preventing infection and restricting physical activity during your dog’s recovery period is 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, he could be raring to go before his body is fully recovered.

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:

  • 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 staples in stitches
  • If your dog displays any of these signs, your veterinarian can be a valuable resource - 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 his 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 his CCL? Contact Mamaroneck vets. Our qualified veterinarians can diagnose conditions, diseases and injuries, and plan treatments.