The pet community was all up in paws when the startup company, Petnostics, landed a $300,000 investment on the popular TV show, Shark Tank. Petnostics sells at-home urine test kits for pets so that owners can monitor their pet’s health at home, thereby saving money you’d spend at your vet while staying on top of your pet’s health. Sounds great, but is it as useful as you think?

First of all, there is no question that a urinalysis is useful. If you bring your under-the-weather pooch into the vet, one of the first things we’ll want to do is get a urine sample for testing. Why do vets want to “go for the gold” right away, even if your pet is showing no signs of urinary tract disease? Because urine tells us a lot about your pet’s health.

What can a urinalysis say about your pet's health?

A urinalysis can provide clues on kidney health, liver health, your pet’s hydration status and whether your pet has diabetes. And that’s just on the test strip alone. Once we spin your pet’s urine down and look at the sediment, we can detect bacterial infections and even bladder cancer.

If a urinalysis is so useful, why isn’t it a no-brainer that owners should want to test their pets at home? The truth is, it really is a no-brainer. I’m all about owners being vigilant about their pet’s health at home. That’s why I want you to brush your pet’s teeth every day. That’s why I counsel the owners of diabetic pets on testing their pet’s blood sugar at home.

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At-home tests vs. visiting the vet

But an at-home urine test? Sure, go ahead. It certainly won’t hurt anything (except maybe your wallet) to purchase the test, collect the urine, download the smartphone app and check your seemingly healthy pet’s urine. You may find early hints at some trouble brewing. If that’s the case, you’ll want to see your vet right away for additional testing and a treatment plan.

My worry about these at-home tests is that owners may use them to try to diagnose sick pets. Say your pet is having urine accidents in the house, and you’re concerned that she may have a urinary tract infection. You order the test, wait a couple of days for it to arrive, perform the test and find out, yes, there are signs of a urinary tract infection.

You call your vet for an appointment, she runs a full urinalysis so she can also look at the sediment, confirms an infection and gets your precious pooch started on appropriate medications. In my mind, you’ve spent unnecessary money on the first test, and you’ve made your sick pet wait with an uncomfortable infection.

Are at-home pet test kits useful?

So what about these at-home kits? Are they garbage? No! I do think they have some merit in maintaining your pet’s health (rather than diagnosing illness). At-home urine tests are especially useful for owners of pets who need to have urine glucose and urine pH monitored. Whether you prefer a Petnostics test with an app that tracks your pet’s urine trends or a box of urine test strips and a notebook for recording daily results, there is never harm in having too much information.

But the bottom line is, if you suspect your pet is ill, you should rely on your veterinarian to diagnose her, not an at-home urine test. In some cases, a couple of days can make all the difference to your pet’s health.

May 18, 2016
Pet Health

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