Most everyone who reads our blog is familiar with Atlanta GirlZ Club’s love of pet fashion, fundraising for animals in need and having fun. We want to share something a bit more serious with you. Recently, my sweet furkid, Holly, an 11-lb rat terrier, underwent TPLO surgery. Holly’s TPLO surgery was performed by our exceptional board certified surgeon, Dr. Thomas J. Noone of Veterinary Referral Surgical Practice in Roswell, Georgia. Lucy and Holly want to share information we received from Dr. Noone and his extraordinary team that might help others when faced with similar circumstances.
Has your Veterinarian recommended Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for your dog? TPLO is one of the most widely used procedures in repairing cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears in dogs (and sometimes in cats). In most cases, TPLO surgery is superior to that of other orthopedic surgeries. It is particularly successful in dogs with advanced joint degeneration and CCL ruptures (which was the case with Holly). Many dogs suffer injuries related to CCL tears, fractures, and other orthopedic occurrences. These injuries require a highly skilled team of veterinary surgeons. Lucy and Holly share below info and tips from the surgical professionals to maintain your dog’s orthopedic health post-surgery.
An Overview of CCL Ruptures in Dogs And Cats
You may be familiar with an ACL tear in humans. A torn anterior cruciate ligament is quite common among athletes. Similarly, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in pets can tear after extensive impact on the ligament or during a sudden injury. There are two ligaments in a pet’s knee joint–the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament. These ligaments are responsible for helping the knee function as a hinge joint, and help to prevent rotation between the femur (upper bone) and tibia (lower bone, a/k/a shin bone). The meniscus helps to act as a cushion between the tibia and femur.
A torn CCL causes pain and immobility. The level of immobility depends on the severity of the rupture. The diagnosis relies on an examination, X-rays, and manipulating the joint (called the cranial drawer test). This test measures the level of instability present in the joint. Over time, the joint will continue to degenerate, resulting in pain, chronic arthritis and lameness.
To treat a CCL rupture, veterinarians recommend the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA), or Lateral Fabellotibial Suture (LFS) surgery. Because of the success rate of the TPLO procedure, it is the most popular type of repair. This is the surgery we elected for Holly. With TPLO, pets have better mobility and reduced osteoarthritis after surgery.
What is TPLO Surgery?
The TPLO procedure is a method to repair a cruciate ligament rupture. TPLO surgery helps to stabilize the stifle and reduce the likelihood of further osteoarthritis progression. The TPLO is the most common procedure for dogs with a cruciate tear. It requires a specialty surgeon to perform this procedure.
Prior to TPLO Surgery
Prior to the TPLO procedure, the surgical team uses carefully positioned radiography, digital x-rays, to help plan the procedure. The surgeon will inspect the knee structures and remove remnants of the damaged ligament(s). They do this by either opening the joint to look inside, or by making a small incision to take a closer look, using a miniature camera.
During the TPLO Surgery
During the surgery, the surgeon cuts the tibial plateau (the load bearing area of the knee) and repositions it in a 5 degree ang
le. The stifle (knee joint) will then be stable for the pet when bearing weight. The surgeon performs the TPLO by cutting, rotating (to reduce excessive slope), and then repositioning the tibia. The bone graft is secured into place using a specially designed bone plate and screws. The surgeon will also evaluate the meniscus. A torn meniscus can act as a source of constant irritation to the joint. The surgeon will remove any damaged parts of the meniscus. If the meniscus is not damaged, the surgeon performs a “meniscal release”. This helps prevent it from being damaged in the future.
After the TPLO Surgery
After the procedure, radiography will once again be ordered to determine the new angle of the shin and how the position of the screws/plates are functioning. A bandage is applied over the incision site for protection. For Holly, and for most dogs, this surgery requires an overnight stay in the hospital for constant monitoring. During the procedure, your pet will be under a general anesthesia. The hospital will also administer painkillers and antibiotics.
Why Is A TPLO Necessary?
Because the TPLO procedure is a major orthopedic surgery, and it certainly was for sweet Holly, surgeons recommend it for dogs where not having the surgery will be worse for the pet’s health than having the surgery. In general, the TPLO has an excellent success rate. Deterioration of the ligaments and joints over time can be greater than the small risk associated with surgery. Our surgeon discussed the best cruciate ligament surgery options for Holly. The TPLO is beneficial for dogs of all breeds and ages. Dogs that are good candidates for the surgery have experienced a rupture of the CCL and have joint instability with mild to severe lameness.
The recovery period following an extensive orthopedic surgery will require rehabilitation for the best outcome. You can anticipate that your dog will need crate rest for six weeks and exercise restrictions for 8-12 weeks. This allows the incision and bone to heal and the knee function to return. Most dogs recover in about 8 weeks. This can vary from patient to patient, based on factors such as age and overall body fitness level. At the time of this blog, Holly is still on crate rest with assisted potty breaks/short walks to “patrol the backyard.” Holly is strong-willed and quite a trooper, and we anticipate a full and successful recovery.
When we returned home with Holly, these are the instructions we are following for a successful recovery:
- Until the bone is completely healed, leash walks to help prevent falls that could damage the bone plate. I help Holly go outside for potty breaks and any sort of movement must be supervised. A sling is used the first two weeks to help Holly walk.
- Keep the incision site clean and dry at all times once your veterinarian removes the bandage or wound dressing. Monitor the area daily and, if necessary, call our surgeon if we notice any excessive swelling, bleeding or drainage (which thankfully has not occurred).
- Use an Elizabethan collar for the first 2 weeks after surgery to prevent Holly from licking or chewing at the incision site. Holly’s surgical vet hand-painted the most beautiful collar for her.
- Apply towel-wrapped ice packs to the area (not directly on the skin). Do this 2-3 times per day for up to twenty minutes during the first 48-72 hours following surgery. If your surgeon does not provide, or you don’t have an ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables works well. Then, switch to warm heat 2-3 times per day for up to twenty minutes the next three days.
- Restrict Holly’s activity by using a small area in the home where she can stay and rest. You can use a crate or an indoor circular fence. Holly has a comfortable top-loading crate.
- As we have done for Holly, keep your pet as comfortable as possible and use all medications as prescribed. If you think your pet is in pain, phone your veterinarian as pain managementis vital to recovery and overall wellbeing.
Take it Easy
It is also important to provide a calm environment at home. Limit disruptions and noise as much as possible, as increased levels of stress can impact your dog’s ability to heal.
- Roughhousing (with people or other pets in the home)
- Climbing steps
Two – Ten Weeks Post Operative Recovery
At two weeks post operatively, you may be able to gradually increase the length of your dog’s short walks on a leash. By the eighth week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform basic daily living activities.
At eight-ten weeks post operatively, your surgeon will do recheck x-rays to assess bone healing. Your dog will be able to gradually resume normal activities. We recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog’s recovery. The rehabilitation facility should have experience in postoperative recovery from orthopedic injuries such as the TPLO. Some dogs also experience good results through laser therapy and acupuncture treatments.
Again, for those who know and follow us on Instagram, Lucy, my spunky Jack Russell terrier, who turns 17 on August 19th, routinely does aquatic treadmill physical therapy and cold laser therapy and chiropractic adjustments to keep her core strong and for her overall health and wellbeing. Holly will follow Lucy’s lead (pun intended) and will be enrolled in a similar program with Atlanta Animal Rehabilitation & Fitness Center (Atlanta), an exceptional team of certified pet physical therapists.
Taking Care Of Your Dog’s Orthopedic Health
You can also take part in your dog’s recovery and ongoing health by following certain lifestyle changes for your furry friend. These include:
- Keeping your dog at a healthy weight;
- Supervising your dog to help minimize accidents and injuries;
- Exercising your dog every day through walks and other age appropriate activities;
- Following up on all postoperative care recommendations and yearly examinations;
- Asking your veterinarian about supplements and medications that may aid in reducing inflammation and pain and supporting mobility; and
- Encouraging low impact forms of exercise, such as walking and swimming.
Pain-free mobility and a great quality of life are what we all want for our four-legged family members. The TPLO surgery may be the treatment that best allows this to be possible.
We are always happy to share more of our TPLO experience, so feel free to reach out to us on Instagram. As always, Atlanta GirlZ Club loves seeing photos of you and your pets. Be sure to follow us and tag @vitalessentialsraw and @lucyandholly_atlgirlzclub on all your photos.
Atlanta GirlZ Club®
“We’re all about Fashion, Fun & Fundraising”
Kathi Welch owns Atlanta GirlZ Club® an influential pet Fashion, Fun & Fundraising brand featuring her fashionable doggie models, Lucy and Holly. As writers and contributors for several outlets and with their significant high profile and social media following, these GirlZ are well known pet influencers and public figures. They host and emcee events, are brand ambassadors and couture fashion models, as well as fashion print and runway models. Kathi and Lucy also have experience and backgrounds working in television. Lucy and Holly are professionally trained. They are trendy influencers in the pet community and have been featured on CNN, appeared on The Weather Channel and in YouTube videos and two books. Atlanta GirlZ Club® burst onto the Atlanta Pet Lifestyle Scene over a decade ago and use their celebrity to shine a light on animal welfare, animal rescues and fundraising efforts. Their brand motto is “We’re all about Fashion, Fun & Fundraising.” Their commitment and core mission is fundraising for animals in need.