Every surgery carries potential complications. Some of them are common and predictable, but sometimes your dog might surprise you with what they manage to inflict on themselves.
The more invasive the surgery is, the more room for a disaster. Yet, serious complications are quite rare. Some of the common TPLO complications include:
- swelling, bruising, and seromas at the incision
- poor incision healing
- slow healing where the bone was cut
- meniscal tears
- implant failure
- tibial fracture
- fibular fracture
Further reading: Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy: My Two Cents on TPLO Repair
Even when the surgery is successful, the post-op period is still vulnerable to mishaps, setbacks, and right out disasters. Sampson managed to exceed all expectations.
Sampson is a 10-year-old Standard Poodle. He is energetic and active and can get himself in trouble for it.
Sampson’s story started earlier this year when he started limping on his left hind leg. The limp didn’t resolve with rest and reduced activity so his parents made a veterinary appointment for Sampson.
At the veterinarian
It is not unusual that while at the veterinary clinic, your dog might not exhibit any of the symptoms that brought them there. It is also why it’s a good idea to film such things to be able to show what is your reason for concern.
Because the Sampson didn’t tell his veterinarian much about his problem during the examination, she recommended x-rays. Because Sampson’s mouth also needed close attention and cleaning, Sampson was scheduled for both procedures.
A positive drawer sign is a tell-tale sign of cruciate ligament damage. Quite often, the veterinarian might not be able to elicit a positive result in a lucid dog. It is much easier to try under anesthesia when the dog is not resisting.
Interestingly, even under anesthesia, the drawer test was negative. The radiographs, however, did show indications of CCL rupture. An orthopedic specialist confirmed that Sampson busted his CCL.
The surgeon gave Sampson’s parents two options: an extracapsular repair and TPLO. Because Sampson is a big boy who likes to burst into explosive speeds, his parents decided on TPLO because it’s generally more forgiving of mishaps, and the recovery is shorter.
Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus situation, Sampson had to wait months before he could get the surgery. I can relate—my brother-in-law’s dog was in the same situation. Believe it or not, ruptured cruciate ligament repair is considered an elective procedure.
Months later, Sampson finally got his surgery.
His parents did all they could to prepare for Sampson’s post-op. They acquired a hind-end support harness, a doughnut collar to protect Sampson’s incision, and set up a play-pen area for quiet, safe rehab.
Sampson’s procedure went well and he was able to go home on the same day.
Further reading: Surviving The Post-Op: After Your Dog’s ACL/CCL Surgery
Sampson’s post-op disaster
Sampson’s received good pain management and spent the night comfortably and safely. His dad stayed at home with Sampson the next day. As the days went on, Sampson was progressing well and started using his leg.
Sampson no longer needed his pain patch and his parents were able to remove his dressing as directed by the surgeon. The surgical site looked good.
The next day, when Sampson’s mom came home from work, she immediately noticed some blood on Sampson’s blanket. And then she got the full load of the disaster. Somehow, Sampson managed to open his incision completely. His bones, the surgical plates, everything was visible. His parents wrapped the open wound the best they could, and rushed Sampson to their veterinarian at once.
The damage to Sampson’s surgical site was so extensive that there was nothing his regular veterinarian could do. They had to rush Sampson back to the orthopedic specialist.
Fortunately, no bones were fractured and the implant held. The biggest concern was infection that could have infiltrated the site and the implant, namely bacterial plaque.
The surgeon cleaned the wound as thoroughly as possible, took cultures, and closed the open incision. Sampson received antibiotics and was able to return home.
His leg has healed and the rest of the recovery went well.
Sampson’s ordeals are not over
After all the complications Sampson’s first knee injury led up to, his ordeals are not over. His other CCL ruptured.
The only upside is that going through this the second time around is easier on both the dog and their parents. Good speed, Sampson.
Sampson – TPLO with Multiple Complications