The TPLO or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy is a very common surgery done by veterinary surgeons for dogs that have ruptured their Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL or ACL). This surgery involves cutting the tibial bone (lower leg bone) and placing a plate and screws to hold it together while tissues heal. Here are 10 tips and tricks to help you with recovery.
1. Read and re-read your surgical discharge instructions! Your surgeon should send home some detailed instructions to help you on your way. It contains surgical and post op care information that can help answer many questions. If you weren’t given discharge instructions or would like another copy, please call and ask for one.
2. Give pain medications. Many people stop pain medications because they don't think their dog is in pain. If your dog is limping, they are likely in some pain. Pain medications like anti-inflammatories help lessen the discomfort from surgery and the recovery process. If your dog is in pain, they will not bear as much weight as they should on their leg and recovery will take longer. Muscle atrophies and bone doesn’t heal if the limb is not being used some. However, overuse can also hinder recovery. Check your discharge summary for guidance.
3. Crate rest is the best option for minimizing activity in your recovering pet. It may feel like you are locking your four legged love one up in jail, but in reality you are protecting them from themselves. The tibial bone will take 8 weeks to heal, so activity restrictions should stay in place for at least that long. Always recheck with your surgeon to have an X-ray done to insure the bone is healed before allowing any more activity. In some cases sedative medications can be helpful if your pet is having a difficult time with activity restrictions.
4. Use the e-collar until your pet has their staples/sutures removed. Licking of the incision can lead to infection, serious complications and additional surgery. Using the e collar can decrease the chance of complications from infection.
5. Set up several crates or small exercise pens in places in your house that you frequent. You can move your dog from one place to another throughout the day to help them not feel as exiled. One can even be outside as long as you are with them and they are continuing to rest. Another common place is next to your bed, especially is your dog sleeps in the bed with you. Dogs are social creatures and having you in the same room may help with crate rest/ exercise restrictions. Exercise pens and crates should not exceed more than about 4’ by 4’.
6. Use a sling when your dog is having difficulty walking and/or when they have to walk on slippery surfaces. In a pinch, you can also loop your leash under your dogs belly to help support or spot them when needed.
7. Physical Rehabilitation can greatly increase overall function, outcome and gives your dog something safe to do while in confinement. Physical rehabilitation practitioners tend to be very experienced in common problems and recovery rates of animals recovering from the TPLO procedure. This helps catch problems early and keeps patients and owners on the right track. They can help guide you and your dog through the process and make life easier for everyone. Rehab also lessens overall discomfort and recovery times.
8. Make mealtime fun. Crate rest or confinement is generally pretty boring. Making mealtime a fun game can greatly improve quality of life. Some simple games you can play are hiding their food in their bedding while they are out using the bathroom. They then come back to a surprise. There are also loads of DIY puzzles and games you can find online. An easy store bought game can be a Kong filled with peanut butter or canned cheese with kibble stuffed in them, then frozen. This gives your dog something fun to work on and can relieve stress caused by crate confinement.
9. Change your dog’s environment that they are in by hanging out in another room, or let them watch some TV designed for dogs. There are many shows on Youtube and other networks that have interesting shows made for dogs.
10. Love them more. It’s difficult to be taken out of your normal routines and activities. Make up for it by loving and petting your dog more. If you’re able to so and it’s safe, spend some time with them on the floor and spoil them with your love.
TPLO or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy
1. Example of a surgical discharge summary
2. How to give you pet medications
3. Crate rest
4. Use an E-collar
5. Set up several crating areas
6. Use your leash as a sling
7. Physical Rehabilitation has many benefits.
8. Make mealtime fun
9. Let your dog watch TV
Do you have any tips or tricks that helped you and your dog during TPLO surgery recovery? Please leave your comments below and help others that are going through the same situation.