A limping pet can be a very scary thing. So many things can cause a sudden change in gait, from a broken toenail to a tumor and everything in between. That’s why having a trusted partner to help care for your furry family such as The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital is so important. 

One of the more common diagnoses for a suddenly limping dog is injury or rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the knee. Similar to an ACL injury in a person, this painful condition often needs surgery, which can also be intimidating. Knowing more about TPLO surgery in dogs can help make this beneficial procedure a little less stressful. 

The Knee Bone’s Connected to The…

Your dog’s knee, more accurately termed the stifle, consists of the upper leg bone (femur) and the lower leg bone (tibia). Within the joint itself several soft tissue structures help to make things more functional.

Of particular importance is the cranial cruciate ligament, or the CCL. This ligament helps to keep the femur and tibia aligned in a functional position. The CCL is essential in keeping the femur from sliding forward off of the front slope of the tibia. 

Because of an animal’s four legged gait, the CCL takes a lot of load. While blunt force injury or an abnormal motion tear it, in pets the most common reason for CCL injury or rupture is long term wear and tear. For this reason many pets suffer from CCL rupture in both stifles, with over half of pets with an injury in one knee being affected in the second at some point. 

Symptoms of a CCL injury might include:

  • Intermittent or persistent limping in a rear limb
  • Sudden lameness
  • Toe-touching
  • Swelling in the stifle joint
  • Presence of cranial drawer (this is a test that your veterinarian will use to help diagnose your pet in which the femur can be made to slide abnormally forward on the tibia)

When TPLO Surgery in Pets is Needed

If your pet has been diagnosed with a CCL injury and other causes of lameness have been excluded, surgery is often required. Ligaments are notoriously bad at healing, and without this vital ligament and unstable knee joint can cause significant pain and development of arthritis. 

There are a few surgeries that exist for addressing CCL injury, however the most commonly recommended and the current gold standard is the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO.

Altough TPLO is a common surgery, it is also a potentially complicated one that is best performed by an experienced surgeon with expertise (and even board-certification) in this arena. Our expert surgeons at Naperville Animal Hospital are equipped to do this. 

During a TPLO, a cut is made out of the top of the tibia and repositioned at a slightly different angle. This new angle creates a physical stop for the femur, recreating the effect of the ruptured CCL. The cut bone is then plated in place to heal over the next few months. 

After surgery many pets are already visibly relieved. Most are able to walk out of the hospital at discharge. While exercise restriction, pain management, and physical therapy will be essential during healing, most pets recover very well from TPLO surgery with full return to function. 

It is always a little intimidating when a pet needs to have surgery, no matter what it is. If your pet has been recommended a TPLO surgery and you have further questions, please contact us. You can rest assured that your four-legged friend is in good hands with our caring staff