When a dog tears its cranial cruciate ligament — a ligament quite like the human’s ACL — it’s important to stabilize the damaged knee joint as soon as possible. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, or TPLO surgery is rapidly becoming the most popular surgery to improve the joint’s long-term stability.
Why It Happens
Some breeds — such as Labradors, Rottweilers, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers and Newfoundlands — are predisposed to cranial cruciate failure. Because a dog’s back leg is bent at a slight degree of flexion when standing, the “dog ACL” inside the knee joint is always weight-bearing. This constant tension on the dog’s ligament makes it susceptible to injury and it is this tension force that destroys the ligament. Every time a dog stands and puts weight on its leg, the femur slides on a downward angle and rubs the back of the tibia. When it’s functioning properly, the ligament is supposed to prevent the forward and backward sliding of the femur on the tibia bone.
Ideal Candidates for TPLO
We strongly recommend TPLO surgery for all cranial cruciate ligament or “dog ACL” injuries, especially for pets weighing more than 40 pounds. With over 15 years of experience in performing TPLO surgeries, our doctors believe it provides the most consistent and effective outcomes.
How TPLO Surgery Works
Our doctors make a circular cut at the top of the tibia plateau, then rotate a portion of the tibia in order to decrease its downward slope to approximately five degrees. This repositioning permanently eliminates the damaging cranial tibial thrust. A surgical-grade stainless steel plate is then used to hold the two bone segments together. This prevents the forward and backward “drawer motion” of the femur on the tibia bone.
Our doctors use a large-screen TV to show explanatory videos about TPLO and to show X‑rays of your dog. The videos, the X-rays and 3D models in the clinic effectively describe what the procedure entails and exactly how we’ll go about stabilizing your dog’s knee.
Benefits of TPLO
With TPLO surgery, we continue to see a more rapid recovery, a better range of motion of the joint, less arthritis and a return to regular agility. Over 90% of dogs experience no complications and require no long-term pain medication. Early intervention is believed to help prevent the other side’s ligament from also failing.
There are other surgical options to treat ligament ruptures. Two of the most common alternatives to TPLO surgery are the Extracapsular Lateral Suture (ECLS) technique, the Tightrope Technique®, and these only temporarily counteract, but do not eliminate, the damaging force in the joint. Only the bone-cutting surgical procedures such as Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA), Tibial Wedge Osteotomy (TWO) and TPLO will eliminate the force that destroyed the ligament. We continue to offer the less expensive, first-generation alternatives, but we highly recommend TPLO surgery on dogs and have used this procedure on dogs as small as 15 pounds. Here are some factors to consider in consultation with one of our doctors to determine the best surgical option for your pet:
• Dog’s age, size and weight
• Dog’s disposition — i.e., whether your dog is calm or active
• Degree of existing joint disease
• Financial considerations
• Post-surgery physical therapy
• Lifestyle — i.e., whether your dog is mainly at home or in sports