HOW TO Understand the Results of Urinalysis for Dogs

urinalysis for dogsAlong with blood work, one of the most common diagnostic tools used by veterinarians is the urinalysis, a “simple test that assesses the physical and chemical composition of urine,” according to the VCA Animal Hospitals website.

What Can a Urinalysis Reveal?

“Abnormal results usually indicate that there is a problem with the kidneys and/or urinary system,” writes VCA. “However, a urinalysis can also provide clues about problems in other organ systems, or may indicate the presence of a metabolic disease, such as diabetes mellitus. Urinalysis is necessary for a complete assessment of the kidneys and urinary system, and should be included in any thorough evaluation of a pet’s health status.”

In The Whole Dog Journal, Randy Kidd, DVM, PHD, adds, “Abnormal-appearing urine (cloudy or red colored), difficulty in urinating, abnormal frequency of urination or abnormal flow are all indications for ordering a urinalysis.”

How is a Urine Sample Taken From My Dog?

There are three ways to obtain a urine sample:

  • The simplest but likely most challenging way is to collect your dog’s pee midstream in a sterile container, such as a jar. Obviously this is much trickier to do for dogs – especially females and shorter breeds – than it is for humans. Be sure to deliver the sample to your vet within two hours. Refrigerated samples are good for up to six hours. Don’t freeze the sample.
  • Your vet can insert a very thin, sterile catheter up your dog’s urinary passage into his bladder, and withdraw urine into a syringe. This procedure is more comfortable for male dogs than females because of their anatomy.
  • poodle dog urinatingUsing a process called cystocentesis, your vet can insert a sterile needle through your dog’s abdominal wall into his full bladder and withdraw the urine into a syringe. “The advantage of this method is that the urine is not contaminated by miscellaneous debris from the lower urinary passage that can interfere with the interpretation of the urinalysis,” notes VCA. Although it doesn’t sound like it, assures that cystocentesis is “a relatively painless and quick procedure. The pet can be lying or standing.”

In many cases the catheter and cystocentesis methods can be used without having to give your dog anesthesia or sedatives.

What is Analyzed in My Dog’s Urine?

A urinalysis consists of three steps, according to examining the color, cloudiness and concentration (specific gravity) of the urine sample; using a dipstick to determine if certain chemical substances are present in the urine; and examining the sediment in the sample under a microscope.

  • Color and clarity

Just as with humans, dogs’ urine should be pale yellow in color. If your dog’s urine is dark yellow, it usually means he’s dehydrated. If it has no color, it could mean your dog’s kidneys aren’t processing urine efficiently. If it’s tinged with red, it could be caused by “red blood cells, hemoglobin, recent ingestion of beets or one of several drugs,” writes Kidd.

  • Concentration (specific gravity)

Healthy dogs’ urine has a specific gravity (SG) of 1.020 to 1.070. “One of the kidney’s jobs is to maintain the body’s water level within fairly narrow limits,” writes VCA. “If there is an excess of water in the body, then the kidney allows the excess water to pass out in the urine, and the urine becomes more watery or dilute. If there is a shortage of water in the body (dehydration), then the kidney conserves water by reducing the amount of water lost in urine, and the urine that is passed is more concentrated.”

  • Acidity and chemicals

The pH of healthy dogs’ urine can range from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline, according to VCA, which writes, “The urine pH can be influenced by the pet’s diet, but it is often a reflection of the pet’s metabolic state, and it can also be an indicator of infection and underlying disease.”A dipstick – a strip of plastic with several small attached pads – is used to analyze the chemicals in your dog’s urine sample. The pads change color to indicate the amount of the chemical.

dog lifting legThe following substances can be detected during the chemical analysis:

Protein (proteinuria) – Any degree of protein in dilute urine may be abnormal, notes VCA.

Glucose (sugar) – Healthy dogs should have no glucose in their urine. Large amounts may mean your dog has diabetes mellitus; smaller amounts may indicate kidney disease.

Ketones – These are present if there is “excessive breakdown of fat to meet the energy needs of the animal,” writes VCA. “This occurs most frequently in diabetes mellitus, and less frequently during prolonged fasting and starvation.”

Blood – If there is blood in the urine, it is usually due to bleeding in the urinary system. Less common causes are an inflamed or injured muscle; or hemolytic anemia, which destroys red blood cells and releases hemoglobin proteins into the urine.

Urobilinogen – Bile in the urine could mean your dog’s bile duct is open, allowing bile to travel from his gall bladder into his intestines.

Bilirubin – A small amount of this substance that’s produced in your dog’s liver is normal in his urine. But a large amount “is often associated with liver disease or conditions involving red blood cell destruction (hemolysis),” notes VCA.

  • Sediment (solid materials)

To examine sediment in your dog’s urine, your vet will spin the sample in a device called a centrifuge. The sediment will then drift to the bottom of the sample. “The most common things found in the sediment are red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, bacteria, and tissue cells shed from the bladder and other portions of the urinary system,” notes VCA. “Sometimes, parasite eggs can be found in urine, but this is very uncommon.” writes that as with other tests, “the urinalysis is just a reflection of what is going on in the animal’s body during a short period of time. In some instances, the results may be very different in a few days, or even in 24 hours. The veterinarian must always take into consideration everything that is affecting the animal and, in turn, how that may affect the test results.”

PHOTOS: Jackie, Jason Meredith, Liza

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

Do you have a question about your dog’s urinalysis? Submit it to i Love Dogs’ Ask a Vet here.

Next week: HOW TO Keep Your Dog Safe in Cold Weather

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Laura Goldman

Laura Goldman is senior social media writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. She does love dogs. And elephants and turtles. Along with writing about the loves of her life, Laura likes to play with her two pound pups and tell anyone who'll listen just how awesome Pit Bulls are.

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  1. [...] Diagnostic testing, including skin scraping or impression smear (for cytology); blood, urine and fecal evaluation; and other tests (Wood’s lamp evaluation, skin biopsy, X-rays or [...]

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