How Do You Test Your Pet’s Urine?
A urinalysis is a series of laboratory tests that is performed on your pet’s urine sample. The results can tell your veterinarian whether your pet’s kidneys are functioning properly and help determine whether or not it has a bladder infection or inflammation in the urinary tract. It can be used as a tool to help uncover underlying conditions or diseases.
When Should a Urinalysis Be Performed?
Urinalysis is used to evaluate pets with urinary abnormalities, such as increased urinary production, frequency, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, or abnormal color or smell to the urine. A urinalysis is useful as a screening test to help rule out diabetes or to determine if there is a urinary tract or bladder infection. It can also be a general tool to assess your pet’s health in a routine physical examination, especially as your pet reaches its senior years.
What Can a Urinalysis Test Reveal?
During urinalysis testing, urine is examined for its physical qualities (color, clarity), its concentration (whether or not the kidneys are able to keep or expel water properly), and the presence of certain chemicals or substances (sugar, protein). The urine is also examined under a microscope for blood cells or crystals. The veterinary technician will check for the presence of any red blood cells (a sign of infection) and/or crystals (which can be a sign of kidney stones). Bacteria, parasites, and cancer cells can also sometimes be identified in urine samples. Once the veterinary technician has reported the findings of the urinalysis to the veterinarian, he or she can better determine the presence of a disease or infection.
Obtaining Urine Samples
If you cannot drop the sample off at your practice immediately, place the sample in a refrigerator until you are able to deliver it.
There are several ways in which a urine sample can be collected:
Free catch — This refers to collecting your pet’s (usually a dog’s) urine in a container provided by your veterinarian. This method is less stressful on your pet; however, it is not considered a sterile collection. Artifacts (foreign objects) that are not part of your pet’s urine can sometimes be collected inadvertently when this method is used.
Cystocentesis — This is a more intrusive way of collecting urine, but it is preferred over the free catch. This method is considered sterile as it is done with a needle and syringe. The needle is inserted directly through the bladder wall whereupon the urine is immediately collected and the needle withdrawn, all performed without local or general anesthesia. It is a relatively painless and quick procedure. The outcome of the results yields fewer artifacts, resulting in a clearer diagnosis.
Catheterization — This is when your veterinarian places a small, flexible, rubber tube directly into your pet’s bladder. The urine sample is collected into a sterile syringe through the tube.
Both cystocentesis and catheterization can provide sterile urine samples. This is important when your veterinarian suspects that your pet may be suffering from a bacterial infection. The sterile sample, unlike the free catch, can be used to conduct a urine culture and sensitivity test. These tests will reveal any bacteria in your pet’s urine. That information will help the veterinarian decide which antibiotic will be the most effective in treating the infection.
Urinalysis results are typically available within an hour if the tests are performed at the veterinarian’s office. If the sample is sent to an outside laboratory, results can take a day or more to be performed.
Collecting Urine Samples At Home
When collecting a urine sample from your dog, make sure to always use a leash. That way, your pet can’t get too far away from you. Once your dog has started to urinate, use the container given to you by your veterinarian and slide it under your pet while it is urinating. It is always a good idea to wear disposable latex gloves while collecting the urine so as not to soil your hands with possibly infected urine. You don’t need a large amount of urine — generally a tablespoon or two will be enough.
When collecting a urine sample from a cat, you should make sure that you are not using your cat’s normal litter, as it will soak up the urine and you will not get a sample. Instead, veterinarians will sometimes offer a special litter from their office or supply you with other ideas for collecting the urine sample. Cats can be finicky about using their litter boxes, so it is more often suggested that you bring your cat in for a cystocentesis. This can cause some stress for your cat but less stress for you.