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Diagnostic Tests: Urinalysis

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Treatment Type: Diagnostic Procedures
Caregiver: Vets Only

A dog urinalysis test is a routine veterinary test which examines a sample of urine for proteins, glucose (sugar), ketones, blood, urobilinogen and bilirubin. A canine urinalysis is really easy to do. All it requires is a sample of urine. This can be brought in by the owner or caught freely in a cup at the vet office. Sometimes, if enough urine can't be gathered, or if the vet needs a pure sample, a cystocentesis is done by the vet to collect directly from the bladder.

There are three parts to a urinalysis.

  1. Dipstick chemical analysis. The dipstick analysis evaluates glucose, protein, red blood cells, white blood cells, pH and more. When any of these are found in the urine, it can indicate there is a problem somewhere.
  2. Checking the urine specific gravity. This will check to make sure the kidneys are concentrating the urine.
  3. Evaluating sediment in the urine. This is done by spinning the urine with a centrifuge and evaluating the sediment under the microscope to look for crystals, or blood cells, bacteria, etc.

Urinalysis is a great tool for diagnosing various problems of the urinary tract. Urinalysis can point towards pretty much every disease of the urinary tract, and can detect:

  • pathogens (bacteria, yeast)
  • different kinds of sediments
  • inflammation
  • bleeding
  • cancer cells

A urinalysis also provides a vet with invaluable information on kidney function and disease, as well as metabolic and hormonal disorders.

Urinalysis is also an invaluable diagnostic for assessing overall health, and for diagnosing a number of systemic diseases.

Here is a list of some of the most common canine conditions where the urinalysis test is used as a diagnostic tool.

Bladder Stones (Urolithiasis)

A urinalysis will look for any abnormal cells, crystals or bacteria in a dog's urine. It will also evaluate the function of the kidneys.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

A urinalysis test is required in order to correctly diagnose chronic kidney disease. A urinalysis tests basic urine parameters, including the specific gravity (concentration), protein levels, blood, inflammatory cells, bacteria, and crystals. When a dog's kidney values are elevated on bloodwork, it may be due to dehydration or actual kidney disease. A urinalysis is required to differentiate these two possiblities. If the urine is well-concentrated, it indicates dehydration, and if it is more dilute, than kidney disease is present.

Once kidney disease is diagnosed, a urinalysis is useful to screen for proteins or signs of infection. Dogs with kidney disease are prone to protein loss in their urine which usually predicts a less favorable outcome. Bladder and kidney infections are also a problem in these patients and a urinalysis can show evidence of inflammation.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is the failure of the body to regulate its sugar levels. To diagnose diabetes accurately, the dog should have a persistently high blood sugar level and glucose present in its urine sample too. There are other common clinical signs including: weight loss, increased drinking, increased urination. Normally sugar is not present in the urine. However, dogs with diabetes have such high levels of sugar in their blood stream, that the kidneys have to filter some of it out into the urine. The vet will ask for a morning urine sample from your dog. They will test the sample using a dipstick. This checks for things like white blood cells, protein, sugar, blood, ketones and ph levels, according to different colour changes on the dipstick.

Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

Urinalysis is not only instrumental in diagnosing pyelonephritis itself, but it also helps us diagnose comorbidities which may have led to the development of pyelonephritis since it's rarely a primary disease unrelated to other conditions. Basic dipstick analysis can detect ketones and glucose, both of which are predisposing factors, and related to diabetes mellitus, a common comorbidity. Microscopic examination of the sediment can reveal causal microorganisms (bacteria/yeast), detect white blood cells, help us differentiate blood in urine (red blood cells) from hemoglobin, different epithelial cells and cast can point to the origin of the problem (kidney or bladder), and other causal factors such as urine sediment and calculi. Other more specific analysis of the urine can help us determine a magnitude of kidney proteinuria (blood proteins leaking into urine due to damaged kidneys) or Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease), another very common comorbidity, especially when history and signalment also point to it.
Urinalysis is an extremely valuable diagnostic procedure in this, and many other cases, on top of that it's cheap and easy to do.

Kidney Filtration Problems (Nephrotic Syndrome)

Urinalysis plays a major role in confirming diagnose of kidney disease as well as staging chronic kidney disease. One of the main things a vet will look for is the protein content of the urine. If everything is ok with kidneys, and there is no bladder infection, there shouldn't be protein in the urine. If the bladder is healthy and there is protein in the urine, that indicates that kidneys are damaged and proteins are leaking from the blood into the urine. Besides being an indicator of kidney damage, urine protein content also helps a vet to determine the stage of chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats.

Prostatic Cysts / Abscesses

When prostatic disease is present there will often be abnormal cells in the urine, it's a good place to start. It's a simple sample to obtain in most pets and low expense. This will not differentiate between a urinary tract infection and prostate infection.

Pus in the Urine (Pyuria)

Urinalysis is important for diagnosing infection and doing antibiotic sensitivity testing. Generally even if the infection is in the kidney this will give an accurate representation of the infection and select the correct antibiotic if a culture and sensitivity is added on.

Ureter Stones (Ureterolithiasis)

Any time there is a malfunction in the urinary system there should be an evaluation for infection and check for abnormal metabolites in the urine. Infection can cause stones or be caused by stones. It is difficult to resolve the situation if an infection is left untreated. Other illness can be identified as well such as diabetes, kidney insufficiency and pH abnormalities.

Urinary Tract Health

Diagnosing disease of the urinary tract, especially lower parts of it (bladder, urethra and associated reproductive organs) is literally impossible without urinalysis, and while ultrasound, x-rays, endoscopy and other modern diagnostic methods help a lot, I would swap them all for a few urine samples.
Due to the fact that lower urinary tract is kinda isolated from the rest of the body, CBC and blood chemistry panels and other laboratory diagnostics are not particularly useful for diagnosing urinary tract disease, though they have their place in the diagnostic process.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A urinalysis is a baseline screen to check urine for any underlying abnormalities. Pending the results, it could give an indication of a urinary tract infection vs. some other change of concern. UTI's often occur in the course of diabetes. Ketones are a sign of complicated diabetes. Protein level in the urine give us information about kidney function and infection.

Vaginal Prolapse

Any time there are abnormalities or trauma to the urinary or reproductive system a urinalysis is valuable. Sometimes infection complicates things and the response to treatment is decreased.

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