What Are the Most Common Complications of TPLO Surgery in Dogs?

Undergoing TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery can be a pivotal moment in a dog’s life, marking the path toward improved mobility and quality of life. However, like any surgical procedure, potential TPLO surgery complications exist that require careful attention and proactive management. As devoted pet owners, it’s crucial to be vigilant during the recovery process, recognizing signs of trouble and ensuring your furry companions receive the support they need for a successful outcome. 

Some of the TPLO post surgery complications include infection, implant loosening or failure, post-TPLO arthritis development, and persistent or recurrent lameness. We will cover these concerns in more detail in this article. 

Benefits of Early Detection of Complications

Identifying issues early enables veterinarians to implement corrective measures promptly. Whether it’s administering antibiotics to combat infection or adjusting rehabilitation protocols to address muscle atrophy, intervening early can mitigate the severity of complications of TPLO surgery in dogs and promote a smoother recovery process. Our patient follow-up process ensures early detection of rare complications. 

Addressing complications early can also lead to substantial cost savings for you as a pet owner in the long run. By identifying issues before they escalate into more serious problems, such as implant failure or chronic infections, you can avoid the need for costly revision surgeries or extensive medical treatments. Additionally, early intervention may reduce the duration of hospitalization or rehabilitation, further lowering veterinary expenses. By investing in proactive monitoring and timely intervention, you can protect both your pet’s health and your financial resources. 

Operative TPLO Complications 

Hemorrhage: When cutting a bone bleeding can occur.  Your veterinary surgeon takes specific care to protect the blood supply during this procedure, but in very rare cases severe hemorrhage can occur during surgery necessitating further care.  Some bruising, however, is a common occurrence which resolves within the first two weeks. 

Recognizing Signs: Look out for bruising or swelling around the surgical site, which may indicate hemorrhage. Additionally, watch for symptoms of blood clots, such as pain or swelling in the affected limb. 

Prevention and Treatment: To prevent hemorrhage, your veterinarian will take measures during surgery to minimize bleeding. Postoperatively, monitoring for signs of excessive bleeding and prompt intervention if detected is vital. Blood clot prevention may involve medication or physical therapy to encourage circulation and prevent clot formation

Short-term Post TPLO Surgery Complications

Some complications are short-term and can be noticed shortly after surgery. 


Surgical wounds are susceptible to infection in the aftermath of TPLO surgery. This can result from contamination during the procedure or challenges with the dog’s immune response. 

Signs to Watch For: Keep a close eye on the surgical site for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, discharge, or heat emanating from the area. 

Preventive Measures: Proper wound care is important, including keeping the incision site clean and dry. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure or if infection is suspected. 

Implant Loosening or Failure

Issues with implants, such as screws or plates, can arise post-TPLO surgery, leading to complications. 

Implant loosening or failure may occur due to factors such as excessive activity during the recovery period or inadequate bone healing. 

Signs to Watch For: Keep an eye on your dog for signs of implant problems, including lameness, pain, or reluctance to use the operated limb. 

Prevention: To reduce the risk of implant issues, follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding activity restrictions and post-operative care. Additionally, ensuring proper nutrition and adherence to rehabilitation protocols can support optimal bone healing and implant stability. 

Long-term Post TPLO Surgery Complications

Some TPLO surgery problems may only occur later on. These include:

Arthritis Development Post-TPLO

Arthritis will typically develop in the affected knee joint following cranial cruciate ligament injury or degeneration due to various factors, including altered biomechanics and degenerative changes, the goal of TPLO surgery is to create stability and thus minimize the formation of arthritis. 

Early Signs of Arthritis: Watch for early indicators of arthritis in your dog, such as stiffness, reluctance to engage in physical activity, or intermittent lameness. 

Management and Prevention Tips: To manage arthritis post-TPLO surgery, focus on weight control to reduce stress on the affected joint. Joint supplements recommended by your veterinarian can help support joint health and alleviate symptoms. 

Persistent or Recurrent Lameness and Mobility Issues

Continued lameness or mobility issues beyond the initial recovery period may indicate underlying complications or challenges. 

Causes of Continued Lameness:

Persistent lameness post-TPLO surgery can stem from various factors, including implant problems such as loosening or failure, muscle atrophy due to reduced activity, or inadequate rehabilitation. 

Recurrent lameness: If lameness resolves after TPLO surgery, but recurs at a later time, this can be an indication of meniscal injury.  We can help you diagnose this rare complication, and we have a program to deal with it if we have done your dog’s TPLO surgery. 

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Strategies: Engaging in physiotherapy and rehabilitation programs tailored to your dog’s specific needs can address lingering mobility issues.

Rehabilitation Strategies after TPLO Surgery

Rehabilitation plays an important role in the post-operative care of dogs undergoing TPLO surgery, offering a pathway to enhanced mobility, comfort, and overall well-being. By prioritizing rehabilitation, you can expedite your beloved dogs’ recovery process and minimize the risk of complications, ultimately empowering them to regain confidence and functionality.

Importance of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is not merely an optional add-on to TPLO surgery; it is an integral component of comprehensive post-operative care. Through targeted exercises, therapeutic interventions, and supportive measures, rehabilitation aims to optimize the dog’s physical function and promote a smooth transition back to normal activities.  Our team teaches you proper rehabilitation for your dog through our comprehensive TPLO surgery program. 

Benefits of Rehabilitation

Engaging in rehabilitation exercises accelerates the healing process by promoting healthy muscle development and joint mobility. It also minimizes the risk of complications such as muscle atrophy and joint stiffness, which can arise from prolonged immobility or inadequate post-operative care, and it plays a pivotal role in rebuilding your dog’s trust in the affected limb, improving balance, coordination, and proprioception.

Rehabilitation Options Post TPLO Surgery

There are several rehabilitation options available for your dog to help prevent long-term TPLO post-surgery complications. 


Underwater treadmill sessions and controlled swimming offer low-impact, high-resistance workouts that promote muscle strength and joint mobility. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on joints while providing an effective cardiovascular workout.  Our team will show you how to take advantage of our marine environment to do your pet’s hydrotherapy yourself and will also help you find a rehabilitative service for your pet if you prefer. 

Strengthening Exercises

Encouraging gentle activities such as slow leash walks, incline climbs, and controlled play with toys will promote muscle development and coordination. These exercises help improve balance, flexibility, and weight distribution on the operated limb. 

Massage Therapy, Heat and Cold therapy

Regular massage therapy enhances circulation, reduces muscle tension, and promotes relaxation. It can alleviate discomfort around the surgical area, improve range of motion, and contribute to the emotional well-being of your dog.  Warming your dog’s knee prior to exercise, and cooling it afterward, will help maintain proper circulation and minimize inflammation. 

Weight Management and Nutrition

Maintaining an ideal weight is crucial for reducing strain on joints and supporting overall joint health. Consult your veterinarian for a customized diet plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs and activity level. Gradual weight loss, portion control, and healthy treats like carrots or apples can aid in weight management. 

Nutritional Supplements for Joint Support

Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, and MSM help support cartilage health, reduce inflammation, and alleviate joint discomfort. Incorporating these supplements into your dog’s diet can enhance joint mobility and promote long-term joint health. 

Environmental Adjustments for Prevention

Create a safe and supportive environment for your dog’s recovery by using non-slip flooring, providing accessible ramps or steps, and investing in orthopedic bedding. These adjustments reduce the risk of falls, minimize joint strain, and ensure comfort during rest and sleep. 

Regular Veterinary Follow-Ups

Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s progress, assess healing, and detect any potential TPLO surgery complications early. Follow your vet’s recommendations for adjusting rehabilitation protocols and consider imaging techniques such as X-rays to evaluate implant positioning and joint health. 


In the journey towards recovery after TPLO surgery, rehabilitation and preventive strategies stand as pillars of support for our beloved canine companions. By embracing these essential components of post-operative care, you can pave the way for a successful recovery and a return to a happy, active life for your furry friends. 

Consulting with your veterinarian is essential in developing a personalized rehabilitation plan tailored to your dog’s unique needs and circumstances. With their expertise and guidance, you can navigate the challenges of post-surgery care with confidence, knowing that you’re providing the best possible support for your pet’s well-being. 

By remaining proactive and committed to the rehabilitation process, you can help your furry friend achieve optimal mobility, alleviate discomfort, and regain confidence in their abilities. Together, with dedication and collaboration, we can ensure that our canine companions thrive post-TPLO surgery, enjoying a fulfilling and active lifestyle for years to come. 

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