Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)


When we adopt or purchase a new puppy, the last thing on our minds is that they may have a potentially debilitating skeletal disorder. Unfortunately, especially in medium to large breeds, there is a genetic disorder known as Hip Dysplasia. 

This condition, if very severe and can further cause joint disease associated with hip dysplasia in dogs. It may require surgical intervention if the condition is identified when your pup is very young. If it occurs later in life, the TPO will probably not be an option and other solutions would need to be explored.

Identifying the need for a TPO

You may notice your puppy has an odd way of walking, sort of rolling his hips or swinging his hind legs. This is very often an indication of early hip dysplasia. While he is still tiny, he will not have pain from this condition, as his bones are still soft and pliable. 

However, if left untreated, hip dysplasia in such a young dog will lead to a host of problems as he grows. One such treatment, which is indicated when the sufferer is a young pup, is the Triple Pelvic Osteotomy, or TPO. The TPO offers an early but permanent solution to prevent further complications.

What does a TPO entail?

This type of surgery is usually performed in puppies between eight and ten months of age, in medium to large breed dogs. The surgery involves the placement of special plates designed to correct the shape of the hip and pelvic bones; so that the angle of the hip socket lines up with the ball at the head of the femur. It is a major surgery and your dog will spend two or more nights in the hospital and need about eight weeks to recover fully.

Why a TPO?

If done at an early age, this surgery will eliminate the inevitable pain, inflammation and lameness that is typical in severe cases of Hip Dysplasia. By having this surgery done when your puppy is still growing, you are sparing him and yourself the suffering that comes later, particularly in larger breeds of dog. Should you opt not to have this surgery, your dog may face a full hip replacement later in life. The latter is far more expensive and it will take him longer to recover.

Possible Complications

As with all surgical procedures, there are risks. The moment we administer general anesthesia, there is a risk. However, there is also a small risk that the sciatic nerve may be damaged because of the proximity to the operation site. 

However, the incidence is minimal, so the best thing you can do is trust in your choice of veterinary surgeon. There is also a small risk of your puppy’s body rejecting the plates, but a dose of antibiotics will usually help it settle down.

Does my pet insurance cover a TPO?

If you took out your insurance when you got your new puppy, then it will be covered because it is considered an important surgery for the dog’s future. Unfortunately, no pet insurance will cover conditions that were known when the policy was initiated because it is considered a pre-existing condition.

What is his prognosis post-surgery?

The success rate of a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy is very high and most patients go on to grow into healthy, happy and pain-free dogs. Choosing this method of correcting his genetic defect is a decision you will never regret. Even if you do not have pet insurance, and you had to pay upfront, when you see your furry little family member frolicking around the park, you will know you have made the right decision. 

What does a TPO cost?

This question is a bit like asking, “how long is a piece of string?”; because the cost right now will certainly be subject to change in the future. However, for right now, depending on the veterinarian practice you use and where you live, you are looking at a cost of roughly $3000, as opposed to a total hip replacement (when he is older), which is in the range of $14 000. The TPO is a far less invasive surgery and recovery time is quicker. 

In conclusion, we do not know, when choosing our new family member, what illnesses or complications may lie ahead. Some tips, though, to avoid the heartbreak of finding you have to put him down due to massive defects, are to do some research into the breeder; check which breeds are more prone to have hip (or elbow) dysplasia; ask to see the puppy’s parents if you see obvious skin defects, or a limp, choose another breeder. 

We often adopt dogs from rescue shelters, in which case we have no idea of their parentage. In these cases, the best thing you can do is to take out pet insurance from day one. That way, you should be covered for any major issues that arise later.