Urine tests are a simple way to gain valuable insights into the internal health of our pets. Urine testing can help us to detect problems such as kidney disease, diabetes, urinary tract infections, bladder/kidney stones and more, making it a very useful screening tool for older pets in particular.
Urine tests are essential to investigate problems such as excessive thirst or urination, urinary incontinence (leaking urine when asleep), inappropriate urination around the house or difficult/painful urination.
Basic urine tests look for several things:
Urine concentration – this gives us information about how well the kidneys are working. Very concentrated (darker yellow coloured) urine usually suggests that the kidneys are functioning normally, whereas very dilute (clear coloured, almost appearing like water) urine may suggest that the kidneys are not functioning well. Dilute urine can also be due to conditions that cause excessive thirst.
Urine protein - a small amount of protein in the urine may be normal, however large amounts can suggest problems with the kidneys or urinary tract, including infections.
Urine glucose and ketones – the presence of glucose and/or ketones in the urine is highly suggestive of diabetes. Further blood tests can be used to confirm diabetes.
Urine pH – urine pH can vary depending on diet and other factors, but an excessively high urine pH (very alkaline urine) or excessively low urine pH (very acidic urine) can sometimes suggest problems like infections or bladder/kidney stones.
Blood – microscopic amounts of red blood cells may not turn the urine red, but may still indicate a problem such as infection, trauma, bladder stones, or cancer in the bladder.
White blood cells and bacteria – these can suggest a urinary tract infection or other causes of inflammation along the urinary tract.
Crystals in the urine – there are several different types of crystals that we see in the urine of dogs and cats, and these can be associated with several conditions including bladder/kidney stones, liver disease and urinary tract infections.
Depending on the results of initial urine tests, further testing may then be needed to investigate or confirm the problem. But as you can see we can gain lots of valuable information from just a few drops of urine!
You might think it is a challenge to collect a urine sample from your pet, but actually we have several methods we can use to collect urine:
“Catching” a sample when dogs urinate on a walk (using a suitable vessel such as a kidney dish or clean disposable plastic container, then transferring the urine to a sterile container)
For cats, we have special non-absorbent plastic beads that can be used in a litter tray instead of regular cat litter. This gives the cat something to scratch around in without absorbing the urine. Then once your cat urinates in the tray, the urine can be collected using a pipette or syringe and transferred to a sterile container.
In the clinic, we can sometimes insert a very small needle and syringe directly into the bladder to collect a sample (this procedure is called cystocentesis).
In some cases (usually under anaesthesia/sedation) a urinary catheter can be placed to collect urine.
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