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Why Does My Pet Need a Urinalysis?

A regular urinalysis test can help detect various conditions and diseases in your cat or dog. Today, our Babcock Ranch veterinarians discuss the importance of such pet testing.

Urinalysis for Dogs

A urinalysis is a simple diagnostic test that assesses the physical and chemical properties of urine. It primarily evaluates the health of the kidneys and urinary system, but it can also reveal issues with other organ systems. It is recommended that all senior dogs aged eight years and older undergo a yearly urinalysis. A urinalysis may also be suggested if you notice your pet drinking more water than usual, urinating more frequently, or if you observe visible blood in their urine.

Why would your veterinarian recommend a urinalysis?

Your veterinarian will use urinalysis to assess the urinary system's and kidneys' overall health. Additionally, this diagnostic test can aid in diagnosing ailments affecting other vital organs, such as the liver.

How to collect a pet's urine?

There are three main ways to collect urine from cats and dogs:

Cystocentesis: Urine is collected from the bladder using a sterile needle and syringe. The benefit of cystocentesis is that the urine is not contaminated by debris from the lower urinary tract. This sample is ideal for evaluating the bladder and kidneys as well as detecting bacterial infection. The procedure is slightly more invasive than others and is only helpful if the pet's bladder is full.

Catheterization: Catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure used to extract urine from the bladder in dogs. It is a great option when a voluntary urine sample is not available, especially in male dogs. A sterile, narrow catheter is inserted through the urethra into the bladder to collect the urine.

Mid-stream Free Flow:  Mid-stream Free Flow: To collect a urine sample from a pet, the pet is allowed to urinate naturally, and the urine is collected in a sterile container. This method is commonly known as a "free flow" or "free catch" sample. The advantages of this process are that it is entirely non-invasive, and pet owners can easily collect a urine sample in the comfort of their own homes.

Understanding the Results of a Urinalysis

There are four main parts to a urinalysis:

  1. Assess appearance: color and turbidity (cloudiness).
  2. Measure the concentration (also known as the density) of the urine.
  3. Measure pH (acidity) and analyze the chemical composition of the urine.
  4. Examine the cells and solid material (urine sediment) present in the urine using a microscope.

It is recommended to examine urine samples within 30 minutes of collection, as other factors, such as crystals, bacteria, and cells, can change the composition by dissolving or multiplying. If you collect a urine sample at home, please return it to your veterinary clinic as soon as possible. The timing of urine collection is usually insignificant unless we are evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine or screening for Cushing's disease. In such cases, we require a urine sample taken first thing in the morning.

Color & Turbidity

Urine that ranges from pale yellow to light amber in color and is clear to slightly cloudy. Dark yellow urine usually indicates that the pet needs to drink more water or is dehydrated. Urine that is not yellow (for example, orange, red, brown, or black) may contain substances that are not normally found in healthy urine and could indicate an underlying health issue.

Increased turbidity or cloudiness in the urine indicates the presence of cells or other solid materials. Turbidity increases when there is blood, inflammatory cells, crystals, mucus, or debris present. The sediment will be examined to determine what is present and whether it is significant.


The concentration of urine in dogs and cats can indicate underlying health conditions. A healthy kidney produces dense (concentrated) urine, while watery (dilute) urine may suggest an issue.

If the body has an excess of water, the kidneys eliminate it in the urine, resulting in more watery or dilute urine. Conversely, if the body lacks water, the kidneys reduce the amount of water lost in the urine, making it more concentrated.

Occasionally passing dilute urine is not a cause for concern. However, if a pet consistently passes dilute urine, it may indicate an underlying kidney or metabolic disease that requires further investigation.

pH & Chemical Composition

The pH level of the urine indicates its acidity. The pH of urine in healthy pets is usually between 6.5 and 7.0. If the pH is acidic (pH less than 6) or alkaline (pH greater than 7), bacteria can thrive, and crystals or stones can form.

Normal variations in urine occur throughout the day, especially when certain foods and medications are consumed. If the rest of the urinalysis is normal, a single urine pH reading is not a cause for concern. If it is consistently abnormal, your veterinarian may wish to investigate further.

Cells & Solid Material (Urine Sediment)

Some of the cells present in your pet's urine can include:

Red Blood Cells: Red blood cells may indicate bladder wall or kidney trauma or irritation. The technician will find red blood cells in the urine of pets with bladder or kidney infections, bladder stones, or interstitial cystitis. It may also be an early sign of cancer of the urinary tract.

White Blood Cells: White blood cells could indicate an infection or an inflammatory process in the bladder or kidney.

Protein: Protein should not be found in urine on a dipstick test. A positive protein in urine test may indicate a bacterial infection, kidney disease, or blood in the urine.

Sugar: Urine should not contain any sugar. The presence of sugar in the urine may signal the presence of Diabetes mellitus.

Ketones: If your pet tests positive for ketones in its urine, a Diabetes Mellitus workup will be performed. Ketones are abnormal byproducts that your pet's cells produce when they lack an adequate energy source.

Bilirubin: Bilirubinuria is an abnormal finding indicating that red blood cells in your pet's bloodstream are being destroyed faster than normal. It has been found in pets suffering from liver disease and autoimmune diseases. Remember that pets with blood in their urine due to a bladder infection can falsely stain the bilirubin pad on the dipstick, raising the possibility of a more serious liver problem.

Urobilinogen: Urobilinogen in urine indicates that the bile duct is open and bile can flow from the gallbladder into the intestine.

Blood: Blood in a dog's or cat's urine can indicate an infection, an inflammatory problem, or stones in the bladder or kidney. The dipstick can detect red blood cells or other blood components, such as hemoglobin or myoglobin, in your pet's urine.

When conducting a urinalysis, it is important to examine the urine sediment. Urine sediment refers to the material that settles at the bottom of a centrifuge after spinning a urine sample. The most common things found in urine sediment are red blood cells, white blood cells, and crystals. Additionally, small amounts of mucus and other debris are frequently found in free-catch samples.

Crystals: Numerous types of crystals vary in size, shape, and color. Some crystals are one-of-a-kind and can aid in the diagnosis of a specific condition. In more common conditions, such as bladder infections, the crystals

Bacteria: The presence of bacteria as well as inflammatory cells in the sediment suggests that there is a bacterial infection somewhere in the urinary system. The urine should ideally be sent to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing to determine what types of bacteria are present and which antibiotic should be used to treat the infection.

Tissue Cells: While not necessarily a sign of disease, increased cellularity has been linked to several conditions, including urinary tract inflammation, bladder stones, prostate issues, and cancer. In catheterization samples, an increased number of tissue cells is often observed. If these cells appear abnormal, your veterinarian may recommend cytologically preparing the sediment. This process enables a more in-depth examination of the tissue cells.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Is your cat or dog due for a urinalysis test? Contact our Babcock Ranch vets to book an appointment.

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