Recently, the use of the pharmacological agents strontium ranelate (SR), parathyroid hormone (1-34, PTH) and zoledronic acid (ZA) has come to prominence for the treatment of osteoporosis due to their ability to prevent bone loss in osteoporotic patients. Although much emphasis has been placed on using pharmacological agents for the prevention of disease, much less attention has been placed on which one is more effective. There is still no direct comparative study on these three drugs. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of SR, PTH, ZA on preventing ovariectomy-induced osteoporosis in rats. After bilateral ovariectomy the rats randomly received vehicle, SR (500 mg/kg body weight/day, orally), PTH (20 μg/kg/day, subcutaneously) or a single injection of ZA (0.1 mg/kg, i.v.) until death at 12 weeks. The distal femurs were harvested for evaluation of bone metabolism. The rats treated with ZA demonstrated the highest levels of new bone formation as assessed by microcomputed tomography (CT), biomechanical strength, histological analysis and bone metabolism. Furthermore, PTH and SR showed a stronger effect on improving trabecular bone mass at 12 weeks. The results from the present study demonstrate that systemic administration of PTH, SR and ZA could prevent bone loss, while a single dose of ZA has a better effect on preventing ovariectomy-induced osteoporosis than either PTH or SR.