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.
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 is Urinalysis?