Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's In The Urine? (Part II: Urinalysis)

In part one we discussed what important information you can get by paying attention to your dog's pee.

In the end, all you really need to be able to figure out 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.

Veterinarians often recommend a urinalysis when presented with a dog with changes in their urinary or drinking habits (e.g., polyuria, polydipsia, dysuria, or urinary incontinence), when an owner has noticed a change in the characteristics (e.g., color) of a dog’s urine, if a dog seems to be “off” in any way, or as part of wellness screening.

If it sounds like veterinarians are willing to run a urinalysis at the drop of a hat… that’s actually a good thing!  

A urinalysis is inexpensive, noninvasive, and provides a wealth of information about a dog’s well-being.

But in order to get good information from a urinalysis, the sample needs to be fresh and uncontaminated.

Some Dog Had to Do It
To collect a sample, you can simply catch the urine in a clean container as your dog pees. It's not always as easy as it sounds, although we became quite skillful at collecting Jasmine's. Haven’t had to try with JD yet, but I bet it must be harder trying to catch it from a boy.

We usually collect a sample right in front of the vet's office, Jasmine loves to sniff around and make sure that all future visitors know she's been there.

It is important that you use a dry, clean container.

You can use a dirty old yogurt jar but 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!

A urine sample can also be collected by your veterinarian 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 very important.

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 sample will be examined for color and cloudiness.

Next, the urine specific gravity (USG), concentration of the urine, will be measured. USG tests the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine.

Dilute urine could simply mean over-hydration, but it can also indicate kidney disease or other conditions that interfere with urine concentration.

Overly concentrated urine can be caused by dehydration  or other problems.

A chemical analysis is a number of chemical tests performed using a dipstick (a specially coated test strip) or a special instrument.

The following tests are usually included in the chemical analysis: 

Urine pH may be influenced by diet and 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, checking her urine a couple of times a day, when urine acidity was a suspect for 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.

Other chemical tests may be included in some types of urine dipsticks.

Finally, a centrifuge is used to separate sediment, which is then further evaluated under a microscope.

A higher than normal number of red blood cells in urine can be caused by a number of issues, such as trauma, urinary tract infection, bladder stones or 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 sterile technique. The urine can then be cultured to 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 be used to screen for Cushing's disease. Jasmine had that done recently. Her urine cortisol : creatinine ratio was measured. While this test is not conclusive for Cushing's disease, affected dogs will usually have abnormal results.

Because cortisol is a "stress" hormone, when testing for Cushing's, it is also important (next to having a clean sample) to get a sample where you dog will be calm. If you get a sample in or after a stressful situation, it will result in higher cortisol levels in the sample. 

***

Like any other diagnostic tool, urinalysis is open to interpretation and further testing might be needed if the findings are inconclusive.

It is important that the results are viewed in light of a dog’s medical history, physical exam and other diagnostic tests.

It's your dog's health,
Jana

Further reading:
Urinalysis: Testing a Urine Sample

Related articles:
Whats In The Urine? (Part I: What You Can Notice On Your Own)

12 comments

  1. Urinanalysis is the first step in testing for Cushing's. Because cortisol is a stress parameter, it is also important (next to having a clean sample) to get a sample where you dog will be calm. If you get a sample in or after a situation that stresses the dog, it will refelect in higher cortisol levels in the sample.

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  2. Hi Kenzo, yes, right you are. We just recently did that for Jasmine, mainly for peace of mind.

    Don't have to worry about stress with her, she loves going to the vets. But good point. If you don't mind I'll add that to the article.

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  3. Amazing what a doctor can find from a urine sample! I would think it would be hard to get a urine sample from some dogs! I'm glad Ace is a squatter. He has his urine tested in March when he was sick with pneumonia and we were not yet sure what he had.

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  4. Yes, a lot of information in urine. Many people in the field seem to call it the liquid gold, because of the diagnostic value :-)

    Well, I think actually getting a urine sample isn't THAT hard. Getting it actually into a jar ... that'd be another story :-)

    Did Ace's urinalysis confirm the diagnosis? Please tell us more about it.

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  5. No, it just confirmed that he didn't have some kind of kidney issue. At the time, this was good to know since we had no idea what was wrong.

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  6. That counts for something too. Some things are hard to diagnose, we still don't really know what's causing Jasmine's episodes. Though with the TCVM they are lesser, so there is at least that.

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  7. how much urine do i need from my dog? she wont let me get much.

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    1. There isn't a whole lot needed; about a tablespoon should do. Sterility is much more important; either have your vet give you a container or whatever you use do make sure it's clean and dry.

      What are you using to collect it? With Jasmine it is enough to wait until she starts peeing and use a container to catch some of the urine. She doesn't mind at all. The only challenge is that she pees and walks, so it's a bit of a "chase".

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  8. Can someone tell me what will happen if my dog is doing his business a lot and is stiff also if he is drooling and turning his head funny

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    1. Wendy, I can't tell you for sure what is happening but I can tell you that whatever it is it is serious enough and you should take him to a vet asap.

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  9. wow this is some great info. who knew urine could be so important. I have to say my dog is making collecting it quite difficult.

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    1. We use a straight ladle with a handle. Works quite well.

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