Why does my pet need a urinalysis?
A urinalysis is a basic diagnostic tool that can provide veterinarians with a significant picture of what’s going on inside the body of pets. A urinalysis is generally one of the tests that are performed during your pet’s wellness check. It is a laboratory procedure that examines the physical and chemical properties of urine. It’s primarily used to evaluate the health of the kidneys and urinary system. The results of a urinalysis can also reveal a problem that may be present in other organ systems. This test is also an important tool in diagnosing metabolic conditions such as diabetes. Continue reading to learn how your vet uses this test to evaluate your pet’s health.
What is a urinalysis?
When running a urinalysis, your pet’s urine sample will be examined for the following parameters:
Color and Appearance
Normally, urine is yellowish and clear or transparent. Any abnormality affecting the urinary system can cause urine to become cloudy, dark, or bloody.
A drop of urine is examined under a microscope for evidence of crystals, mucus, casts, blood cell, and even cancer cells.
This is a laboratory test that evaluates urine concentration. However, it should not be used as a sole diagnostic tool because the concentration of urine can be influenced by your pet’s hydration status and water consumption. The result of the test can be used by your vet to determine other tests that may be necessary to make a diagnosis.
In a routine urinalysis, the chemical tests that a vet usually recommends include:
- Glucose (sugar level) - To determine the presence of diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, or other problems.
- Protein - An abnormal increase of protein in the urine can indicate inflammation, metabolic disease, infection, or hemorrhage.
- Bilirubin or bile pigments - Increased levels can indicate the destruction of red blood cells or liver disease.
- Blood - Active bleeding and/or destruction of red blood cells (RBC) can be indicated by the presence of whole blood cells or pigments in the urine.
- Changes in the urine pH - This can indicate the presence of a kidney infection or kidney disease.
- Ketones - These are by-products of protein metabolism. Ketones in the urine can indicate starvation which can be literal or as a result of diabetes or other types of metabolic disease.
Why did my vet recommend a urinalysis?
The following are the most common reasons why a urinalysis is performed for pets.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are among the most common health issues in dogs and cats. If there is an infection somewhere in your pet’s urinary tract, the results of a urinalysis may show the presence of bacteria and white blood cells (WBC).
If your pet shows signs of inappropriate elimination, your first stop should be the vet clinic. Your vet needs to rule out a health issue, such as a UTI, that could be causing your pet’s undesirable behavior. If an infection is present, antibiotics are often prescribed. In recurring UTI, your vet may recommend culture and sensitivity testing to identify the specific bacteria that is involved so the appropriate antibiotics can be given.
Pain and discomfort are often present when your pet has crystals in the urine. The presence of urine stones or crystals creates a perfect environment for urinary tract infections. Stones (uroliths) are formed when crystals clump together in the urinary bladder.
To get rid of the crystals, your pet’s urine pH needs to get back to a normal range. This can sometimes be achieved by a course of antibiotics and/or a change in diet. If your pet’s urinalysis shows crystals in the urine, your vet may recommend an ultrasound or x-ray to check whether urinary stones are present. In some cases, urinary stones are not dissolved by a diet change and will require surgery to remove them.
One of the major functions of the kidneys is to concentrate urine. The concentration of urine density is one of the parameters that are examined during a urinalysis (specific gravity). This is accomplished with the use of a refractometer.
Dilute urine often indicates there is something wrong with the kidneys that prevent them from functioning properly. Your vet may suggest blood work to evaluate the other important parameters of kidney function. Renal disease in pets is often a lifetime problem. A change in diet, medications, and supplementation can help add years to your pet’s life and improve his quality of life.
Diabetes in pets is often indicated by an excess of glucose in their urine and blood. During a urinalysis, increased glucose levels and the presence of ketones can be significant features in the urine of diabetic pets. Increased levels of ketone are caused by the excess breakdown of fat in the animal’s body. Blood work is often recommended when glucose and ketones values are high in order to check for diabetes.
One of the primary functions of the liver is to break down old red blood cells. In the process, bilirubin is produced. Increased levels of bilirubin in the urine can indicate that there is something wrong with your pet’s liver or there is inappropriate red blood cell destruction that is taking place in the body.
In cats, the presence of any amount of bilirubin in their urine is always a cause for concern. In this case, blood work is always performed to evaluate liver function and the concentration of red blood cells.
Urinary Tract Cancer
When a tumor is present in any part of the urinary tract, a urinalysis will show a significant number of epithelial cells. While a few epithelial cells in the urine is normal, abnormally high levels can indicate the presence of a tumor. In this case, your vet may recommend a radiograph or ultrasound and blood work to check if a tumor is indeed present in your pet’s urinary tract.
How is urine collected?
Urine collection in cats and dogs can be accomplished in 3 ways.
Urine is collected from the bladder using a sterile needle and syringe. The needle is passed through the abdominal wall to collect urine from a fully distended urinary bladder.
This technique collects urine by inserting a very narrow sterile catheter up the urethra into the bladder.
3. Mid-Stream Free Flow
When your pet voids urine, a sterile container is used to collect a sample. The urine sample is also called ‘free flow’ or ‘free catch’.
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