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The sterilization of the bitch: when, why, how?

The sterilization of a bitch consists in preventing the reproduction thereof, temporarily by medical treatment (chemical sterilization), either definitively by a surgical procedure consisting of the withdrawal of ovaries or even from the uterus.

The sterilization of a bitch consists in preventing the reproduction thereof, temporarily by medical treatment (chemical sterilization), either definitively by a surgical procedure consisting of the withdrawal of ovaries or even from the uterus. Surgical sterilization is currently the most common practice, which is why I particularly detail it, but you can regain chemical sterilization, its advantages and disadvantages at the end of the article.

Some recall on the cycle in the bitch

The sexual cycle of the dog consists of four phases, characterized by a change in behaviour and a modification of the genital apparatus under the influence of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, produced at the level of the ovaries.

The first two phases, called pro-estrus and estrus, correspond to the heat. During the pro-estrus that lasts an average week, the dog is preparing for reproduction: it secretes pheromones that attract males and loses blood from the vulva. The estrus, which lasts 3 to 10 days according to the bitches, corresponds to the time of acceptance of coupling and ovulation.

Follows the post-estrus, also known as metestrus or diestrus, which lasts two months. If there was fertilization, this period corresponds to the gestation.

Finally, the AnoSetrus is the sexual rest phase that lasts 4 to 5 months.

For most of the bitches, heats are held twice a year, usually in early spring and early fall. However, some bitches may have once or three times their heat during the year. These variations are not abnormal and depend on individual and racial factors. The most important thing is to monitor the regularity of the cycles of your bitch and discuss it with your veterinarian.

Surgical sterilization

Surgical sterilization consists of removing either the ovaries (ovariectomy) or the ovaries and the uterus (ovariohysterectomy).

Why sterilize my dog?

Various situations can lead to consideration of the surgical sterilization of a bitch.

At first, sterilization makes it possible to avoid gestation and delete heat. You will no longer have blood losses, more leagues to find males or unwanted gestation. Sterilization also has the advantage of avoiding the transmission of hereditary affections (for example, hip dysplasia).

It should be noted that the influence of sterilization on behaviour is variable: the intervention will allow suppressing certain sexual behaviours (fugues, attractions of males), but others may persist. Talk to your veterinarian to evaluate the benefits in the case of your bitch.

In a second step, sterilization indirectly allows prolonging the life of your dog by preventing the appearance of certain tumours under the influence of sex hormones. The

Prevention of mammary tumours, the most common tumour of the bitch, half of which is malignant, represents the major profit of sterilization. Other tumours of the genital system will also be avoided because of the absence of the ovaries, even the uterus, but it is a smaller profit since these tumours are rarer.

Sterilization can also be considered for medical reasons: uterine infections, following a hormonal imbalance after heat, or pseudo gestation lactations, more commonly called nerve pregnancies, definitively resolve by sterilization. It may also be interesting to sterilize a diabetic bitch, since the post-estrus progesterone can aggravate sweet diabetes by acting on the metabolism of the bitch.

Finally, according to article L211-14 on the holding of categorized dogs, the bit category bitches must be sterilized. The owner risks up to 6 months in prison and 15,000 euros fine if this is not the case.


Surgical sterilization of the bitch:

Causes a definitive stop of reproduction: more heat and speakers, with partial modification of behaviour,

allows an improvement in quality of life: decreased risk of tumours (including breasts), treatment and prevention of certain conditions (uterine infections, nerve pregnancies, sweet diabetes),

is a regulatory obligation for the bit category bitches.

What are the disadvantages of sterilization?

The main disadvantage of sterilization remains the impossibility of reproducing its bitch, since it is a definitive intervention. However, unlike popular ideas, sterilization is not necessarily a sign of malaise for the bitch. It depends a lot on individual factors and its way of life that is not always consistent with its reproductive needs and therefore can cause frustrations.

One of the major consequences of sterilization corresponds to a weight gain: Indeed, the intervention causes metabolic changes, modifies the feeling of satiety and promotes the storage of fat. So, inevitably, your dog will take a little weight. It is, therefore, necessary to take seriously the risk of obesity, a factor favouring and/or aggravating many diseases. However, it is not necessarily inevitable, since a dietary adjustment by a reduction of the ratio of about 30% and a regular follow-up (weighed once a month for one year after sterilization, for example) make it possible to limit an excessive weight gain.

The other side effect that can be observed is urinary incontinence in 5 to 10% of cases, according to the studies. This results from an inability of the urethral sphincter to contain the urine, hence the appearance of drops of urine or even puddles generally on the sleeping site. Again, it is not fairness, since adapted medical treatment allows an excellent response with complete elimination of urinary leaks in most cases.

Finally, sterilization remains an intervention presenting risks related to the surgical act and anaesthesia. During the intervention, the main serious complications remain bleeding, which the veterinarian can quickly control, and the anaesthetic accident whose risk is limited by continuous monitoring of vital constants. After the intervention, the potentially serious complications are summarized as dehiscence and/or a wound infection, whose risk is limited by maintaining a clean wound and the port of the collar (CF below). It must therefore be remembered that sterilization is a daily and well-controlled intervention of veterinarians, presenting an anaesthetic risk all the weaker as your bitch is young and in great shape.

When to make my dog ​​sterilize?

The sterilization of the bitch is usually done at the end of growth, during the AnoSetrus phase. Since growth is different depending on the format of your bitch, the recommended sterilization age may vary from 4 to 12 months, but nothing prevents sterilizing it after.

In order to limit the risk of mammary tumours, sterilization is interesting and has demonstrated its profits before the age of two. However, even late sterilization limits the risks of recurrence of benign mammary tumours.

Finally, the development of the genital system is also to be taken into account: if the vulva is very little developed or if your bitch presents an infection of the vagina, it is better to wait for the first heat to sterilize it.

Note that the sterilization of a getting bitch is conceivable but at the very beginning of gestation only.

How to prepare my dog?

Sterilization is realized on a healthy bitch, in order to limit the risks of complications related to the intervention: Indeed, if your bitch is sick, it will be less able to support surgery and anaesthesia.

For the intervention, the dog must be in Jeun, in particular, to limit the risk of false swallowing during anaesthesia and facilitating surgery. The diet and the water are removed the evening before the operation. Be careful; however, if your dog is young or has treatments, this bet can be different: talk to your veterinarian.

How is the sterilization?

Generally, the installation of a catheter is recommended because it is a temporary venous lane allowing the injection of anaesthetics and moisturizing fluids during the intervention. The operating zone corresponds: either at a navel on the inside of the thighs (ovariectomy by the white line) or to a zone behind the coast (ovariectomy by the flanks). The technique used depends on the surgeon and the template of your bitch.

Two interventions are then possible: either the withdrawal of the ovaries (ovariectomy) or the withdrawal of the ovaries and the uterus (ovariohysterectomy). Efficacy is equivalent in both cases in terms of sterility, withdrawal of the uterus with interest in proven infection of the uterus or the presence of a gestation. In most cases in the young bitch, ovariectomy is sufficient.

The veterinarian incurs the skin and muscles to the abdominal cavity. It identifies the ovaries and ligatures of the vessels in order to remove the ovaries without bleeding. It then closes the abdomen and sutures the wound with thread, which can be resorbable or not, according to the surgeon. The bitch is then waking quietly, under surveillance, and she receives anti-pain.

What is care after the intervention?

Post-operative care usually focuses on a week after the intervention. On the same day, your dog will certainly be tired. If she does not eat at night, do not worry, shape and appetite normally come back the next day.

Regarding treatments, anti-inflammatory drugs are generally administered to limit pain at the wound level.

At the local level, a wound with a good evolution becomes waterproof within 48 hours. Thus, the surveillance of the wound is particularly important in this period of time. In order to limit the risks of infection and dehiscence of sutures, devices preventing the bitch from licking the wound are introduced until the withdrawal of the wires (if they are resorbable yarns). Generally, this is in the form of a collar or clothing protecting the wound.

Chemical sterilization

Medical treatments are also available for temporary and reversible sterilization of a bitch. These are essentially long-lasting progestins in the form of tablets or injections that are to be renewed before each new cycle.

The main advantage of chemical sterilization lies in its reversible character: it can thus be controlled the gestations of the bitch without deleting the possibility of reproducing it.

However, these treatments have more or less long-term side effects with a major impact on the health of the bitch: weight gain, diabetes, uterine infection, mammary tumour. As an owner, you must also take Precautions for the administration of treatment since it is hormones that can disrupt fertility. These treatments are, therefore, today to proscribe, but the veterinarian is quite demonic since no drug does not allow to induce temporary infertility without risk in the bitch.


In summary, surgical sterilization presents real assets for the health of your bitch and is done daily by veterinarians. It is, therefore, a well-controlled intervention, moderately invasive and with good pain control. The conditions necessary for the smooth running of the surgery are a bitch in Jeunes, in anestrus and healthy phase. Post-operative care is essential and time-consuming, with the administration of anti-inflammatory treatments and slope monitoring and general condition. Finally, do not hesitate to discuss with your veterinarian to evaluate the benefits and risks in the case of your bitch.

Acknowledgements to Dr Emilie Rosset, veterinary specialist in animal breeding (Dipr. ECAR) exercising at CERREC (Center for Reproduction and Research in Carnivores) of Vetagrosup (Veterinary Campus in Marcy L’Star), for the proofreading of This article.


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