Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) Surgery for Dogs: Procedure and Recovery

Considering Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog? In this post, our Flat Rock vets describe the procedure and what to expect as he recovers. 

What is TPLO Surgery?

TPLO (or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery is a common orthopedic surgery for dogs with a torn cranial cruciate ligament (the CCL, similar to the ACL in humans). It’s a very effective long-term solution for addressing this injury, and has been popular because of its quick recovery time and results.

The surgery changes the dynamics of the dog’s knee so the torn ligament isn’t needed. Because a dog’s knee is always bent at about 110 degrees, it’s always taking on load, or tension - which makes it vulnerable to injury (no wonder it’s the most common orthopedic injury in dogs).

A torn CCL for a dog is very painful as the femur will be rubbing on the back of the tibia, causing inflammation and discomfort. Chances are, your dog will be very reluctant to put any weight on that leg.


With TPLO surgery, the bone is cut so the tibial plateau can be rotated where the tibia and femur work together. Part of the tibia will be removed and repositioned, and the femur won’t be able to slide backwards. Most importantly, the knee will be stabilized. The CCL ligament is no longer needed and the joint is stable again.

Here are a list of factors to think about when considering TPLO surgery. Think about your dog’s:

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

Recovering from TPLO Surgery: What to Do and What to Avoid

Though every dog is different, the first 12 weeks following surgery are a critical time, as full recovery may take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. Your dog’s breed, size and age may affect recovery time. Though the bone graft will be secured by a plate and screws, it still needs post-surgical healing time. During this period, you should:

  • Give the anesthesia time to wear off
  • Keep surgical areas clean, covered and protected from infection
  • Restrict physical activity to give bones time to heal but follow any recommended exercise routines

Keep in mind that avoiding infection and restricting physical activity during the recovery period are essential. Since dogs tend to heal quickly and crave physical activity, he could be up and raring to go before his body is physically ready. While walking for a few minutes at a time on-leash is advisable, avoid high-intensity activities such as running, jumping, playing with other dogs and even steep stairs.

Though you can likely leave your dog unattended during the day to go to work or school, he will still need potty breaks and exercise to avoid stiffness. By week 8, if all is well, the stitches should be ready to come out.

Potential Complications and What to Do

Though recovery from TPLO surgery is typically complication-free, you’ll want to call your veterinarian at the first sign of any of these symptoms:

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

If any of these signs appear, your veterinarian is a valuable resource - they may be able to diagnose the issue and recommend a solution.

Also remember that similar to people who are recovering from any procedure, dogs need activity, too. He’ll appreciate a few new toys and your doting attention as he recovers.

Diagnostics are part of our services. If you think your dog may have torn his CCL, contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an appointment, so it can be correctly diagnosed.

Dog CCL Surgery, Flat Rock Vet

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