4176 Meridian Street

Bellingham, WA 98226

(360) 758-2200

24/7 Emergency Care​

TPLO Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

The doctor said my pet has a torn cruciate ligament, what does that mean?

The cruciate ligament is one of the two bands that form an X shape to bind the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). In humans, we know this as an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). We call the same ligament in dogs a CCL (cranial cruciate ligament).

If your dog tears or ruptures a cruciate ligaments, their knee joint will become unstable. This instability leads to pain and reduced mobility.

In dogs, the CCL is attached to the cranial part (or front) of the knee. Oftentimes, the terms ACL and CCL are used interchangeably, though the proper term is CCL. 

What is a TPLO?

TPLO stands for Tibial Plateau Levels Osteotomy. This surgery changes the angle and relationship of the femur and the tibia shifts forward during a stride. This is accomplished by making a semicircular cut through the top of the tibia, and usinga bone plate to allow the tibia to heal. This realignment of the surfaces within the stifle (knee) helps to provide stability during a stride and helps to reduce future joint inflammation and osteoarthritis. By carefully adjusting the angle or slope of the top of the tibia, surgeons are able to replicate a more normal configuration of the knee joint and reduce mechanical stress. 

Can my pet recover from this injury with rest and medication?

Once the cruciate ligament has become damaged, it is unable to repair itself. Surgical correction is oftentimes the best option. Though kennel rest and anti-inflammatory medication may help in the short term, once the pet returns to activity, the pain and lameness will return as well. 

What is the likelihood that my pet will regain full function of their leg after surgery?

The success rate for TPLO surgeries is quite high if home care instructions are followed carefully and the joint has not become too badly damaged. Your surgeon will talk to you more about this topic and how it pertains to your pet.

What can I do to prepare my family and home prior to my pet’s surgery?

Caring for your pet post-op will be much less stressful if you are prepared ahead of time. Since activity will need to be restricted for several weeks, setting up a kennel or small room (roughly a 6×6 – 10×10 space). Your pet will need to avoid stairs or steep inclines, so purchasing or building a ramp may be necessary in some situations. We also offer a “Help ‘Em Up” harness to assist you in supporting your pet during their recovery.

What is a “Help ‘Em Up” Harness?

This is a specially designed harness that includes a hip lift attachment, to allow you to support your pets hind end during their recovery. We can fit your pet for the harness here at the hospital, and will make adjustments during your pet’s rechecks, to ensure the harness fits properly.

What does post-operative home care look like?

After surgery, your pet’s activity will need to be greatly reduced. During the first 4 weeks following the surgery, your pet should only be going outside for short, controlled leash walks to use the bathroom. Stairs should be avoided and your pet should not be able to get on/off furniture or play with other family members or pets. Your pet should be spending most of their time resting in their designated kennel or room. Over-activity will slow the healing process and can create complications, so this step is essential in ensuring a timely recovery. The surgeon will also send you home with sedatives and anti-anxiety medications to help your pet relax during this time, though mental stimulation a can also be very beneficial.

Your pet will need to wear an e-collar for the first 2-weeks post-surgery. This is crucial in protecting the surgical incision and reducing the chance of infection.

Will my pet need medications after surgery?

Yes! Your pet will be sent home with medications to help with pain, inflammation, sedation, and an antibiotic. These medications may vary from pet to pet, but plan on your pet needing medications 2-3 times a day for approximately 8-12 weeks. Pain management during and afer surgery is critical, so be sure to give all medications as prescribed and use them until they are gone. Refills can be picked up at our hospital or mailed to your home using our online pharmacy, VetSource.

Do I need to do physical therapy on my pet after surgery?

It is not recommended to perform physical rehab on your pet at home without guidance, however, physical rehabilitation will help speed the healing process if performed correctly. Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital does have a Rehabilitation Department and we would be happy to schedule your pet for a consultation if you are interested.

What can I do to keep my pet stimulated during recovery when activity is limited?

Every dog is different in what keeps them stimulated. If your pet is motivated by food, consider food puzzles or lick pads to keep them busy. If your pet is motivated by smells, consider a long drive with the windows cracked to allow them to experience new scents (only recommended if your pet is confined in the car). Some dogs may just be stimulated by spending time with their owners, so allowing them to spend time on a dog bed next to you while you watch TV or work from home may be enough. Keep in mind that sedation medications will also help your pet relax during this recovery time.

Will my pet need to have sutures removed?

Typically, the sutures are dissolvable and do not need to be removed, however, your pet should be scheduled for a 2 week incision recheck appointment, if sutures do need to be removed they may be done during that appointment. 

What appointments should I expect for my pet’s follow-up care?

2 week incision recheck

This appointment will allow us to assess your pet’s surgical incision and evaluate their comfort levels and mobility. During this appointment we will want to know how frequently your pet is recieving certain medications, how much activity they are doing, and how much they are using their post-surgical leg. These appointments typically last 15-20 minutes. 

8 week radiograph recheck

This appointment should be scheduled in the morning. You will drop off your pet and they may stay with us for several hours. During this appointment we will take x-rays of the post-surgical leg to assess bone healing. Sedation may be required for this appointment, but is not always necessary. During this appointment we will want to know how frequently your pet is receiving certain medications, how much activity they are doing, and how much they are using their post-surgical leg. The surgeon will also perform an exam on your pet to determine their comfort level and mobility. We will call you when your pet is ready to go home and discuss a schedule for increasing activity and ultimately getting your pet back to their full activity!

When can my pet return to normal activity?

This will depend largely on what is observed during your pet’s 8 week recheck, though we hope to start increasing activity around 9 weeks and have your pet back to full activity within 16 weeks from their surgery date. 

Contact BBVSH Bellingham
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