Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) Surgery in Dogs: Procedure & Recovery

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

What is TPLO Surgery?

TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery is a common orthopedic surgery for dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. This ligament is similar to our ACL. The procedure is an effective long-term solution for addressing this injury, and is popular due to its results and quick recovery time. 

The surgery alters the dynamics of your dog’s knee so the torn ligament isn’t needed. 

TPLO Surgery in Dogs, Providence Animal Hospital, Waxhaw Vets

Because a dog’s knee is always bent at about 110 degrees, it takes on tension and a lot of pressure, which makes it susceptible to injury. This is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. 

For a dog, a torn CCL is very painful, as his femur will rub on the back of the tibia, causing inflammation and discomfort. Chances are, your dog will not want to put any weight on the injured leg. 


With TPLO surgery, the bone is cut so the tibial plateau can be rotated, where the femur and tibia work together. Part of the tibia will be shifted 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. 

Some factors to consider when thinking about TPLO surgery for your dog include:

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

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

Though each dog is unique, the first 12 weeks following surgery are critical. Full recovery can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. Your dog’s breed, age and size can affect his recovery time. 

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

Keep in mind that preventing infection and restricting physical activity as your dog recovers are both critical. Since dogs tend to heal quickly and are drawn to physical activity, it’s possible for him to want to be active before his body is prepared. While taking short on-leash walks is advisable, you should avoid high-intensity activities such as playing with other dogs, climbing steep stairs, jumping and running. 

Though you’ll likely be able to leave your dog unattended during the day while you’re at school or work, he’ll still need bathroom breaks and exercise to prevent stiffness. By the eighth week, if all is well, stitches should be ready to come out.

Potential complications and what to do

Though dogs don’t typically experience complications from TPLO surgery, you’ll want to call your veterinarian if you see any of these symptoms:

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

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

Also remember that similar to people who are recovering from a surgical procedure, dogs need activity as well. He’ll appreciate your attention (and maybe a few new toys) while he recovers.  

Is your dog showing signs of a torn ACL? Our veterinarians at Providence South Animal Hospital in Waxhaw have experience in diagnosing many injuries and conditions. Book an appointment today.

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