What Is Tplo Surgery In Dogs
Your pet probably loves nothing more than going outside with you to chase balls or play fetch, but at some point, he may have gotten injured while doing these activities. When a dog suffers from an injury to its legs, it can cause severe pain that makes even simple walking difficult. If your pooch has been in this situation, there are options available to treat his condition. One option is TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery, which will restore mobility to your dog’s knee without relying on the damaged ligament for stability.
A Crucial Ligament
To understand what TPLO surgery does, we need to know a little about how dogs’ knees work. First off, let’s talk about the cruciate ligament, also known as the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). This is one of three major ligaments that keep the joints stable and healthy. It connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia), forming a “cruciform” shape. Its main function is to prevent anterior displacement — meaning when you push up onto your toes, the tibia should remain stationary behind you rather than moving forward. But cruciate ligaments don’t just stop movement; they’re also responsible for providing stability, allowing for smooth motion. That means if you put pressure on one side of your foot, your leg shouldn’t bend too much on the opposite side.
When cruciate ligaments become torn, they no longer provide stability, which leads to instability problems. Instability causes joint damage, leading to arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other painful conditions. A common type of instability caused by a ruptured cruciate ligament is called gonarthrosis, which occurs when the bones rub together due to the lack of stability provided by the ligament.
It’s not only humans who suffer from unstable joints, however. Many animals experience similar problems. For example, horses often develop arthritis because their legs aren’t properly stabilized. Another animal commonly affected by instability issues is the greyhound, which develops osteoarthritis in its front legs due to overuse.
So why do we perform TPLO surgery? Because many dogs who suffer from unstable joints undergo cruciate ligament reconstruction. Typically, reconstruction involves using prosthetics made out of synthetic materials such as nylon, polypropylene, and PTFE (a material used in artificial heart valves). These tend to wear down quickly, though, requiring replacement after a few years. As an alternative, TPLO offers another surgical method to stabilize joints.
How Does TPLO Work?
During TPLO surgery, a doctor first cleanses the area around the injured leg so that any infection doesn’t spread during the procedure. Next, doctors make small incisions in the skin above the ankle and below the kneecap. Then, they insert pins into the bottom part of the tibia and the top portion of the fibula bone. After securing the pins within the bones, they close the incision sites. Finally, they insert a metal plate between the two bones and secure it with screws inserted through the pins.
During the healing process, the plate acts as a support structure for the newly formed cruciate ligament. Once the wound heals, the pins stay inside the bones. However, once they’ve served their purpose, surgeons remove them. Afterward, all that remains is a new cruciate ligament made of soft tissue instead of prosthetic material.
Since a cruciate ligament works differently from a natural one, recovery time varies depending on the individual. Some people heal relatively quickly, while others take months to recover.
Is TPLO Right for Your Dog?
If you suspect your dog has suffered a cruciate ligament tear, consult your veterinarian regarding treatment options. While TPLO surgery has proven successful for many patients, it isn’t right for every breed of dog. Before undergoing the procedure, be sure to discuss the benefits with your vet. They’ll likely recommend further testing such as X-rays, blood tests, and injections to ensure that your dog truly needs the operation before scheduling it.
In addition to determining whether TPLO is right for your dog, vets will evaluate several factors before performing the surgery. Here are four questions you should ask your vet prior to getting your dog checked out:
1. How old is my dog?
Younger dogs typically benefit most from TPLO since their bodies haven’t yet developed osteoarthritis. Older dogs are less likely to see results from the surgery, especially if they already have significant arthritic damage.
2. Are both legs involved?
Some dogs injure their right leg and then compensate for the problem later in life by pushing themselves harder with their left leg. Others may have trouble supporting weight evenly across either leg. If your dog falls into the latter group, TPLO alone might not solve the problem. To increase your chances of success, you may want to consider having him placed under general anesthesia during surgery.
3. What kind of activity does my dog participate in?
Dogs participating in strenuous sports or physical therapy sessions are good candidates for TPLO surgery. You must speak with your vet to determine whether the surgery would be beneficial for your particular case.
4. How long ago did my dog sustain the injury?
The sooner you start rehabilitation following an injury, the better. If you wait weeks, months, or even years to begin exercising again, your body won’t be able to fully heal.
As mentioned previously, TPLO surgery helps restore stability to your dog’s knee and allows for smoother movement. According to Dr. Robert M. Burkhart, TPLO surgery creates a new attachment site for the cruciate ligament where it attaches to the tibia. During certain movements, the cruciate ligament tightens and pulls against itself. With TPLO, that tightening action takes place naturally and safely, decreasing stress on surrounding tissues. Since TPLO surgery requires minimal invasion, recovery times vary widely among individuals. Patients generally return home after 24 hours or less, although some require additional hospital stays.
Following surgery, your vet will instruct you on proper care for your dog. He’ll give you a list of things to avoid until the wound is completely healed, including smoking, alcohol consumption, and medication use. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet if your dog becomes ill or experiences complications following surgery.
Because the cruciate ligament plays such an important role in keeping our pets healthy, it’s crucial to pay attention to injuries involving this vital tendon. Should your pup ever end up needing TPLO surgery, be prepared to follow your vet’s recommendations carefully. And remember, prevention is always key to making sure your dog avoids future injuries.
For more information on TPLO surgery, check out the links on the next page.
While TPLO surgery successfully recovers mobility to a patient’s knees, it can’t fix the underlying problem. Arthritis still exists despite the cruciate ligament being replaced by a natural one. The best way to prevent arthritis is to manage existing symptoms and maintain overall health.
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