How Can You Tell If A Female Dog Has Been Spayed?

Sometimes if you find, buy or adopt an adult female dog, it will not be obvious whether or not she has been spayed. If you do not receive any information about the dog from her previous owner or handler, or are unable to trust the veracity of the information that you are given, it can be difficult to tell definitively if the dog is already spayed, a problem that is not faced by the owners of male dogs!

When a male dog is neutered, they are castrated, a process that involves the physical removal of the dog’s testicles. This then makes it obvious when you look at the back end of the adult male dog; if the testicles are not present, the dog has been neutered! However, neutering a female dog involves surgical spaying, which takes the form of an ovariohysterectomy, which is an internal surgery that only leaves a small scar afterwards, which soon fades and re-grows hair over the surgical field. This makes it much more challenging to find out whether or not a strange female dog has been spayed or not, but it is by no means impossible!

In this article, we will look at some of the methods that you can use to find out definitively if a strange female dog has been spayed. Read on to learn more!

Look for the spaying scar

When a female dog has been spayed, an incision will have been made on the body to allow the vet to remove the sexual organs, and as this is an invasive surgery, afterwards, the incision will be sutured up and will leave a fine scar. How prominent the scar is after surgery will depend on how large it is, how well it was sutured, and how long ago the procedure was performed.

A spay performed within the last six months will likely still show signs of uneven fur where the hair is re-growing, and so this can be relatively simple. If this is not the case, you may have to shave the fur from the potential surgical field in order to look for the scar!

To add to the confusion, the spaying scar is not in the same place on every dog. Spaying within the UK is most commonly performed on the flank, on the left hand side of the body, but midline spaying (performed on the natural “seam” of the dog’s stomach, on their underside) is also growing in popularity.

Look for the scar on the flank first of all, but do not rule out a midline spay either!

Secondary indicators of spaying

In bitches that were spayed at a relatively young age and that have never carried a litter, the vulva, nipples and mammary glands are likely to be smaller and less developed than an intact female dog of a similar size, or a spayed bitch that has previously carried a litter. While this is not an exact science, and a spayed bitch who had a litter prior to spaying is unlikely to appear any different to an unsprayed bitch, if you already have a good idea about whether or not the bitch is spayed, it can help to confirm your suspicions.


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Hormone testing

If your search for the spaying scar or secondary indications have proven inconclusive, you can ask your vet to run a panel of hormonal tests to detect the hormones that relate to normal sexual cycling, or their absence. Your vet can usually test for these by taking a sample of cells from the vulva, or by injecting your dog with a hormone complex and then taking a blood sample to see if the ovaries are present and functional.

Wait for the bitch to come into season

One of the easiest ways to definitively find out if your bitch is spayed and you’re not worried about having to wait a while to find out, is to wait and see if your bitch comes into heat. Bitches usually come into heat just once or twice a year, so this might mean waiting for up to a year to see if your bitch is spayed or not, which may not be appropriate in all situations, for instance, if you are trying to re-home the dog and wish her to be spayed beforehand.

Microchipping information

It is entirely possible that even a homeless or abandoned dog has been microchipped at some point in her past, even if she has changed hands since then or her prior owner is unable to be contacted. Ask your vet to scan your dog for a microchip and then contact the microchipping company, as they retain records on the basic facts about the dog, including whether or not they have been spayed or neutered (assuming that they were given this information).

Exploratory surgery

Finally, the definitive but most invasive way to find out for sure if a bitch has been spayed is to take her into the vets for an exploratory surgery, to see if the ovaries are present or not (and generally, spay the bitch if they are). Obviously this should be used as a last resort when there is no other option, but if your other investigations have failed and it is important to find out for sure, exploratory surgery may be the only obvious solution.


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