Veterinary Urinalysis: What Can a Veterinarian Learn from Your Dog’s Pee
In part one we discussed what important information you can get by paying attention to your dog’s pee.
In the end, all you need to assess is whether your dog needs to see a vet and how soon.
Your vet is much better at reading your dog’s urine—after all, they’ve got the tools! Urinalysis is the technical term for a thorough examination of urine.
Indications for urinalysis
Your veterinarian will recommend urinalysis when your dog:
- changed their urinary or drinking habits (e.g., polyuria, polydipsia, dysuria, or urinary incontinence)
- you noticed a change in the characteristics (e.g., color) of a dog’s urine
- if your dog seems to be “off”
- as part of wellness screening.
Further reading: Examine Your Dog’s Pee: What’s In The Urine? What You Can Notice On Your Own
If it sounds like veterinarians are willing to run a urinalysis at the drop of a hat… that’s a good thing! A urinalysis is inexpensive, noninvasive, and provides a wealth of information about a dog’s well-being.
Collecting the sample
To get good information from a urinalysis, the sample needs to be fresh and uncontaminated.
To collect a sample, you can catch the urine in a clean container as your dog pees. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, although we became pretty skillful at collecting it.
We usually collect a sample right in front of the vet’s office. Our dogs love to sniff around and make sure that all future visitors know they’ve been there.
Use a dry, clean container.
You can use a dirty old yogurt jar. However, don’t be surprised if the urinalysis comes back with all kinds of results! Don’t laugh; this happens more frequently than you’d think!
Your veterinarian can collect a urine sample using a catheter or by cystocentesis (a needle inserted into the bladder).
This will ensure a fresh and uncontaminated sample, but ouch! So far, we’ve always gotten away with free catch samples with Jasmine. We weren’t looking for infections though. When the vet is worried about the possibility of infection, the sterility of the sample is essential.
Now that your vet has the sample, they can evaluate the urine.
The first step is similar to what you might have observed yourself. The veterinarian will examine the urine for color and cloudiness.
Specific gravity/urine concentration
Specific gravity (USG), the urine concentration is an essential measurement. USG reflects the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine.
Dilute urine could simply mean over-hydration. However, it can also indicate kidney disease or other conditions that interfere with urine concentration. On the other hand, overly concentrated pee isn’t always just dehydration.
Here is what the lab report might look like.
Chemical analysis means chemical tests performed using a dipstick. A dipstick is a test strip with a special coating or a special instrument.
Chemical analysis usually includes:
Urine pH may be influenced by diet. An abnormally high or low pH can be behind the formation of bladder stones or crystals.
I remember stalking Jasmine with a collection jar and a pH test strip. At that time, I was checking her urine a couple of times a day. The veterinarian suspected hen urine acidity was behind some of her issues at that time.
Glucose in urine is often a sign of diabetes mellitus or stress.
Protein levels are measured to determine whether there is kidney damage or inflammation in the urinary tract.
Ketones in the urine are usually associated with diabetes mellitus.
Excess Bilirubin can be a sign of liver disease.
Some types of urine dipsticks might include other tests.
Evaluation under a microscope
Finally, a centrifuge separates sediment for further evaluation under a microscope.
A higher than a normal number of red blood cells in urine can mean a number of issues, such as:
- urinary tract infection
- bladder stones
- blood clotting problems
The presence of white blood cells may indicate inflammation or infection.
Observing bacteria can indicate infection as long as the sample was taken using the sterile technique.
Culture can determine the type of bacteria present and which antibiotics should be most effective against them.
Crystals in the urine can be seen with bladder stones.
A special type of urinalysis can also screen for Cushing’s disease. Jasmine had that done. We measured her creatine to cortisol ratio. While this test is not conclusive for Cushing’s disease, affected dogs will usually have abnormal results.
Because cortisol is a “stress” hormone, it is essential to get a sample where your dog will be calm.
If you get a sample in or after a stressful situation, it will result in higher cortisol levels.
Like any other diagnostic tool, urinalysis is open to interpretation. Further testing might be necessary if the findings are inconclusive.
The veterinarian ought to view results based on a dog’s medical history, physical exam, and other diagnostic tests.
What’s In The Urine? (Part I: What You Can Notice On Your Own)
Canine Fecal Analysis: What Can Your Dog’s Poop Reveal About Their Health?
What is Urinalysis?
This is an awesome and easy to understand overview of what can be found in a urinalysis. For those looking for options to free-catch urine. Some great tips are using soup spoons or lids – just make sure they are clean and that you plan to “sacrifice” the utensils after using. 😉 For kitties ask your vet if they have special litter granules (these look kinda like plastic beads?) and a special litterbox for you. In clinic we will at times do this if we need to collect urine but do not want to place a catheter or do a cysto on hospitalized kitties.
I honestly believe that urinalysis is something that is too often underestimated by pet owners simply because they don’t realize how valuable it actually is. When we were working to diagnosis what we now know is IBD in our girl Daviana, we relied heavily on urinalysis to rule out potential issues with her kidneys and liver. Luckily, she made it a lot easier to collect than dogs that I have owned in the past hahaha
This is so useful. I am sure many dog owners do not know how much detail comes from a urine analysis and how helpful it might be in helping locate a problem (or encourage a vet to check with other means).
The list of things shown by analysis will let an owner become more familiar with terms (and what they mean) which is more reassuring than some vets might realise. I wish I could have had a list of what the terms meant for our Harvey’s kidney test. So many unfamiliar names I had never seen before. Your list is priceless for this reason alone.
My vet doesn’t include this service with my younger dog. However, in my senior dog’s last years, this was always included in her health check. I learned that there is a lot an expert can learn from dog urine. My senior dog was tall, so catching the urine was really easy.
Wow, really? Urinalysis ought to be part of the wellness exam, at least once a year. Young or not–starting early helps establish a baseline.
Our vet does not include urinalysis as part of my dogs’ wellness exams. However, my sister’s dog was prone to UTI’s and the same vet ordered a urinalysis for her at nearly every appointment. I like her approach.
This is great detailed information on dog urinalysis. I never realized that you could do a free catch with a dog. I figured it had to be catheter. That takes a whole different set of skills. You are right, there’s definitely great information a vet can get from a urinalysis. My vet does one on my dog, Henry every year as part of his check-up. I have a whole new respect for the techs now.
Very informative. My vet includes urinalysis in the cost of my senior boy’s yearly workup, and we’ve had to get them done when he gets UTIs. I always kind of struggle when I have to free catch the urine. I think it makes it even harder that my dogs are small. Lower down to the ground = less space to slip something under them while they’re peeing. The things we do for our dogs, huh?