REHABILITATION FOR DOGS AFTER TPLO SURGERY
WHAT IS TPLO SURGERY?
TPLO is stands for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy. This is a procedure performed on dogs suffering from a tear in their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) which is similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The CCL is a very important stabilizing structure in your dog’s knee and prevents the thigh bone from sliding forward. When the CCL ligament is damaged it can lead to pain, swelling, arthritis, limping and loss of mobility due to the instability.
The TPLO surgery helps to stabilize the knee by flattening the tibia (or leg bone). This is accomplished by cutting the tibia and rotating the bone. The two segments of bone are stabilized with a metal plate and screws and over the course of a few months the bones will heal resulting in a stable knee and pain free movement.
During the procedure the surgeon will also remove the torn pieces of the ligament and make sure that the meniscus (another ligament in the knee that is commonly injured at the same time as the CCL) is intact and healthy.
While this surgery sounds invasive - it has been well studied and is one of the most common orthopedic surgeries performed on pets. Most pets recover well and are able to get back to their normal activities once they have completely healed.
TPLO SURGERY WAS RECOMMENDED FOR MY DOG - CAN I JUST DO PHYSICAL REHABILITATION INSTEAD?
For most active pets, TPLO surgery is recommended for the best outcome. However every patient is different and there are several factors which need to be considered when determining how to best proceed, including:
- Presence of a meniscal tear
- Other medical conditions
In cases in which surgery may not be in the pet’s interest, after a thorough physical rehabilitation exam at the clinic, we can guide you on the best rehabilitation plan and can also discuss the possibility of helping your pet with a custom brace to support the affected knee.
No matter what, physical rehabilitation is always an important component to help your pet regain their strength, mobility and have the best chance of living pain-free and returning to the life they love.
WHY IS REHABILITATION RECOMMENDED AFTER TPLO SURGERY?
Rehab is a critical component to helping your dog recover from a CCL injury. Once your dog has injured their CCL, studies show that even with immediate surgery the affected leg starts to lose muscle mass within 2 weeks. Once a dog is unable to place full weight on the injured leg this places abnormal pressure and strain on other aspects of their body. This can lead to muscle pain, spasms and dysfunction in other areas of the body. Physical rehabilitation is aimed at:
-Reducing pain and inflammation
-Restoring normal movement
-Preventing secondary injuries from developing
-Resolving muscle spasms
-Improving strength and muscle mass in the surgical leg
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A PHYSICAL REHABILITATION SESSION?
During a physical rehabilitation session we utilize several modalities to help patients with their recovery with the goal of returning them to their normal activities.
-LASER THERAPY: At Healing Tails we utilize a class 4 laser called the K-laser. This treatment is non painful and utilizes different wavelengths
of light to target the affected tissue. It can be used to accelerate wound healing, reduce pain, stiffness, swelling and muscle spasms.
-MASSAGE: This is a non-invasive technique which can help relieve pain, increase range of motion, improve circulation, reduce inflammation and relieve muscle spasms.
-STRETCHING: Stretching helps to improve your pets flexibility and mobility by restoring normal movement to their muscles and joints.
-THERAPEUTIC EXERCISE: This is one of the most important aspects of comprehensive rehabilitation programs! An exercise plan is designed specifically for your pet and implemented by the therapist. This can involve a variety of exercises and equipment and can be utilized to help improve your pets strength, balance and coordination. We make exercise fun by incorporating positive reinforcement, treats and toys to entice our patients to move through their exercises.
-UNDERWATER TREADMILL THERAPY: This uses warm water to support your pet's weight while they are walking on the treadmill. With an underwater treadmill we can work on improving your pet's joint range of motion, strength and mobility. This is a great modality to utilize in the early part of your pet’s recovery from surgery to help encourage low impact use of the surgical limb.
THE SURGEON GAVE ME EXERCISES FOR ME TO WORK ON WITH MY PET POST OPERATIVELY. WHY DO I NEED TO BRING THEM INTO A CLINIC FOR REHAB?
We love when surgeons provide pet owners with the basic tools to get started with rehab immediately after surgery! However each pet is an individual and may have concurrent health conditions or pain in different areas of their body which needs to be addressed as an individual. We strongly recommend partnering with a trained physical rehabilitation professional to thoroughly evaluate your pet after surgery and determine the best approach for their recovery. We prescribe exercises depending on each patient’s ability and current health condition and work with the pet to progressively make those exercises more challenging as they progress through their program and show improvement in their condition. As trained rehab professionals we can use massage and other techniques to resolve your pet’s particular areas of pain or discomfort.
HOW MANY SESSIONS OF REHABILITATION WILL MY PET NEED?
How many sessions depends on the pet and their particular needs. During your initial physical rehabilitation consultation we will be able to provide you with a more specific plan of care based on your pet’s current condition.
HOW CAN MY PET BENEFIT FROM LONG TERM REHABILITATION AFTER TPLO SURGERY?
Arthritis is an inevitable consequence of surgery. Utilizing a maintenance therapy plan for your pet once they have “‘graduated'' from their initial post operative plan is a great idea. For maintenance treatments we incorporate many of the same techniques for post operative recovery to help keep them active and pain free.
Does your pet need help with TPLO recovery? We've got you covered. Click on the logo to submit a form and a team member will get back to you as soon as possible!
Dr. Arielle Herndobler is the owner and founder of Healing Tails, a clinic located in Chicago focusing on physical rehabilitation and holistic medicine for pets. She is certified in acupuncture, certified veterinary spinal manipulation therapy (chiropractic) and physical rehabilitation.