Why Does My Vet Want a Urine Sample from My Dog?
Chances are that the last time you went to your physician for a physical examination, your health care provider handed you a vial and pointed to the restroom so you could “pee in the cup.” This procedure has become so normal that we probably prepare by not urinating in anticipation. That is because analyzing a urine sample (doing a urinalysis) is a relatively quick and easy way to get a lot of valuable information.
Your veterinarian likely recommends running a urinalysis not only on your dog when she is sick but also sometimes when she seems perfectly healthy. In fact, years ago my friend, Dr. Carl Osborne, a veterinarian renowned for his interest in urinary disorders, told me that as far as he was concerned no physical examination was complete without a urinalysis.
What can a urinalysis tell your veterinarian about your dog?
Your veterinarian will look at the following aspects of the urine sample:
- Color and Appearance-- Is it yellow and clear/transparent as it should be or is it cloudy, dark or bloody indicating something abnormal is suspended in it (such as blood cells, cancer cells, crystals, mucus, bacteria and remnants of damaged kidney cells or casts).
- Microscopic Appearance-- When evaluated under a microscope a drop of urine can confirm the presence of those suspended components mentioned above.
- Specific Gravity-- This is a test that determines the concentration of the urine as a number, on a scale, with 1.000 being the standard (based on distilled water) and the values increasing from there. The specific gravity reading of one single urine sample is not entirely diagnostic because urine concentration varies with hydration status and water consumption. But the value can lead your veterinarian to pursue other tests.
- Chemical tests-- There are many, very sophisticated, chemical tests that can also be performed on a urine sample but in a routine urinalysis some of the things your veterinarian will check for are:
- Glucose (sugar)-- Can indicate diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or other genetic disorders
- Protein-- In increased amounts can point to infection, inflammation, hemorrhage, or other metabolic diseases
- Bilirubin or bile pigments-- In increased numbers can indicate liver disease or red blood cell destruction
- Blood-- Either whole cells or just pigment from active bleeding and/or red blood cell destruction may signal infection
- pH or the acidity changes of the urine-- Can indicate kidney disease or infection
- Ketones-- By-products of protein metabolism so their presence can indicate starvation (either literal or due to metabolic disease like diabetes mellitus)
How will my veterinarian get the urine sample from my dog?
Under some circumstances your dog may be willing to pee into a cup (or a pan). This is called a free catch sample. It is the easiest to obtain (if you can), but evaluation of the sample has to be done in light of the fact that the final product is not necessarily what started out in the bladder since the urine passed through other locations (the prostatic urethra and the penis in a male or the urethra and vulva in a female) along its way out. In addition it is not a sterile sample if a culture for bacteria is going to be performed.
Sometimes your veterinarian can collect urine by expressing the bladder gently until your dog urinates for a free catch sample or by passing a urinary catheter. These techniques are also not ideal because there is some minor trauma involved in the process-- infection can be introduced by catheterization when it might not have existed before. Again, samples collected like this will not likely be sterile so urine culture results are questionable.
In order to collect a clean urine specimen directly from the bladder, it is best to use a technique called “cystocentesis” that refers to inserting a small needle through the skin directly into the bladder and removing a specimen in much the same way that a blood sample is obtained. The procedure is very quick, safe and relatively painless.
When you consider how much valuable information can be found in a wee bit of pee, it’s well worth the effort.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
The CheckUp Wellness Test is an all-inclusive kit that includes a disposible urine collection cup, vial and pipette to help you collect your dog’s urine and 2 testing strips you’ll need to test your dog’s urine.
The test can help identify urinary tract infections (UTIs), blood in the urine, high glucose levels and kidney failure. The test detects the presence of the following in your dog’s urine:
The kit also includes a color-coded chart to help you decipher results. While you get all the “equipment” you need to test your dog’s urine, this kit doesn’t test for nearly as many parameters as the test strips we review below.
Four weeks ago, Delilah had a Urinary Tract infection. She had a two-week course of antibiotics and my instructions were for a urine recheck a week after she finished them.
Delilah finished her last full day of antibiotic on a Sunday. Wednesday night she was going outside more than she normally would. Thursday morning I called our vet and asked if maybe we should check her urine sooner than the recommended week.
My vet said she’d like a STERILE urine sample. The STERILE urine sample is also known as Cystocentesis.
Cystocentesis is a fancy name for a needle inserted through the belly into the bladder, for the purpose of withdrawing a small amount of STERILE urine.
I hate putting my dogs through these types of procedures without exhausting all other options. And since Delilah had only been outside a bit more than normal, with no other symptoms, I felt certain she didn’t have an infection. So I asked my vet if we could check her urine the normal way first.
I was advised to get some wet ones and wipe Delilah’s va-jay-jay BEFORE she peed. SO bright and early the next morning, I found myself with my face down in my dog’s ass, wiping her Hoo-Hah with a wet one.
Either the wipe stung, or the wet one felt good, because right after I finished, Delilah took off doing zoomies around the house. When she settled down, we went outside and using my handy urine sample collection kit, I secured a sample.
We dropped it off Friday afternoon and I was shocked when the vet called me Friday night and said Delilah still had an infection.
WHY A STERILE URINE SAMPLE IS CRUCIAL
My vet was very concerned because either Delilah got another infection while on an antibiotic, OR the antibiotic didn’t work on that particular infection.
It’s also important to find out what type of infection it is as well as where the infection is. For instance, a urine sample can be contaminated in the Urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder out of the body) and not be in the bladder. Without having a clear idea of where the infection is, you can be spinning your wheels trying to treat it.
In Delilah’s case, it’s also important because some antibiotics can really mess with the liver and Delilah’s ALT is already elevated, so we need to tread carefully with antibiotics, not to mention she’d just come off a two week course of them.
My Dr. wasn’t available until later in the day on Saturday, but Dr. Allen was, so I reluctantly made the appointment for 10:20 Saturday morning.
The key to Cystocentesis is having a full bladder, so Delilah had breakfast, went outside and then I couldn’t let her pee again.
I called the vet on my way in and said, “As soon as her feet hit the ground, this dog is going to have to pee. Can you have a room ready for us?”
I have the best vet and the best vet staff on this planet, so they assured my they would be set and if I called when I got there, they’d get her right in.
Sure enough, as soon as I called, they opened the back door and I pulled right up and unloaded Delilah. At first Delilah was excited, because we were hustling her along and talking to her. But when we hit the exam room door, she put the brakes on.
It broke my heart because I knew SHE knew something was going on, because her tail was tucked, and she was hesitant. But like I said, the peeps who work at my clinic are amazing and by the time I’d parked the car, Delilah was back to her happy self.
Dr. Allen came in almost immediately and started talking me through it. Delilah would be placed on her back on padded material. One of the vet techs would be holding her head, talking to her and another would be giving her some belly rubs. If Delilah fussed at all, or seemed the least bit uncomfortable, Dr. Allen wouldn’t do the procedure.
Belly rubs are good, I can’t say I like the needles much though.
While we were talking, Dr. Allen was feeling Delilah’s bladder to make sure it was full.
At first she was going to do it in the exam room, and I asked if I could hold Delilah and Dr. Allen said, “Only if you can be perfectly Zen, otherwise it will upset her.”
I suggested maybe she should take her out of the room.
So I watched my dog leave the room with Dr. Allen.
I picked up my phone and was going to text Hubby, but changed my mind. Then I was going to text Sue and changed my mind again. So I pulled up a game. I was about a minute in when Dr. Allen came back in the room with Delilah.
“Couldn’t you get a sample?” I asked.
“I got a sample, we’re done, she did amazing.”
Wow, all that worry and Delilah wasn’t even bothered by it.
I thought that was the hard part. No, the hard part was waiting for test results. According to Dr. Allen, it could take up to a week to get the results, as the lab would be checking the bacteria against antibiotics to see which one would work best.
When I got home (less than an hour after I’d left) and was telling Hubby how it went down, I said, “Dr. Allen gets me. She knows exactly how to explain things to me, to make me feel better.” We had a good laugh about that. “She gets me.”
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait the full week. Dr. Allen called on Tuesday evening and said Delilah has an E-Coli infection in her bladder.
E-Coli? Freaked me out. I mean, we’ve all heard of E-Coli outbreaks, and since she was eliminating it in her urine, I was concerned that Sampson could catch it.
It turns out that he can’t. The way Dr. Allen explained it to me is E-Coli naturally lives in the intestines and sometimes, such as in an E-Coli outbreak, some of that fecal matter gets on your food.
In female dogs, because of where the pee-shooter rests, directly below the poop shooter (her words, not mine, I told you she ‘got’ me) some of that E-Coli can get into the urinary tract. E-Coli is very receptive to some antibiotics, and resistant to others, which is why the STERILE URINE SAMPLE was key.
So Delilah is now on a three week course of antibiotics (Cefpodoxime) and we will check her urine at about the ten day mark.
When Dr. Allen and I were discussing the antibiotic on the phone, I made sure to thank her for her care on Saturday. I told her how speaking with her made me feel better (and shared the “she gets me” comment with her). After we laughed about that and she joked the next time I was in we should do a drum circle, I told her I wouldn’t hesitate to have that procedure done on my dog again. At that point she told me that even a dog that does well with it one time, may not do well a second time. She also said, if we’d done that the first time I brought Delilah in (when she was peeing blood) she may not have done well, because her bladder was so angry.
Sometimes a STERILE URINE SAMPLE is a necessity, especially if a course of antibiotics hasn’t worked.
Testing your dog’s urine will analysis various compounds which relate to your dog’s overall health.
Here is breakdown to help you understand what goes into a simple dog urine test:
PH levels are measured rated 1 – 14 where 7 is considered neutral. This number is a reading of how acidic or alkaline the urine is.
Protein is measured because healthy animals will usually have very little or no protein in their urine at all.
Glucose indicates the amount of sugar, and like protein normal dog and cat urine should be negative.
Ketones are formed when the body breaks down fats. A normal cat or dog should test negative for ketones, but an indication may found in animals which have been starved or a diabetic.
Bilirubin is made from dead or dying red blood cells by the liver, and it is not abnormal to find traces of it in a dog’s urine. However, any indication in a cat’s urine and further tests should be done.
High amounts of bilirubin in the urine can be a sign of liver disease, bile duct obstruction, or abnormal destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis).
Urobilinogen is a compound formed from bilirubin by intestinal bacteria. Normal cats and dogs have small amounts of urobilinogen in their urine.
As well, it is not rare for healthy pets to have a few red blood cells in their urine, but greater than normal amounts indicate a problem. Blood in the urine (hematuria) can be due to a number of causes, including trauma, urinary tract infection, bladder stones, and blood clotting problems.
Nitrites may be produced by the bacteria present in some infections, and can also be detected during a routine urine test.
If you are concerned about your dog’s health please contact your veterinarian immediately.