Going for the gold: the importance of urinalysis tests

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Oct 21 2011

Blood work isn’t the only routine test your veterinarian may recommend at your pet’s next checkup. Analyzing your pet’s urine is also an important diagnostic tool in the prevention of many health problems.

You may think that urinalysis is only needed in the case of a suspected urinary tract infection, but a urinalysis can reveal much more about your dog or cat's body chemistry. A urinalysis determines some chemical characteristics of the urine, such as pH and urine concentration, as well as physical characteristics, such as the presence of bacteria, blood or white blood cells. Your veterinarian may run a urinalysis in his or her office, or may send the urine to a laboratory for analysis.

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First, a dipstick will be used to analyze the chemical properties of your pet’s urine, including:

  • Protein: Protein in your pet’s urine may indicate infection or kidney disease.
  • Glucose: Finding glucose, or sugar, in your pet’s urine may indicate diabetes.
  • pH: The pH of your pet’s urine is important, especially in the case of chronic urinary tract infections or bladder stones.
  • Blood: Blood in the urine can indicate several abnormalities, especially infection or kidney disease.

Your veterinarian will look at the urine under a microscope for the presence of white blood cells and bacteria, which can indicate infection. Other things that can be spotted on microscopic views are red blood cells, urine crystals and objects called casts, which can indicate kidney damage.

Finally, your veterinarian will check the specific gravity of the urine. This is a measure of the concentration of your pet’s urine. Urine should be relatively concentrated, as the body conserves water to prevent dehydration. Animals that produce consistently diluted urine, especially in the face of dehydration, may have an underlying condition, such as diabetes or endocrine disorders.

The results of a urinalysis will be used in conjunction with the results of blood work to assess your pet’s health. If your veterinarian requests a urine sample, try your best to comply. You’d be surprised how much information about the health of your pet can be gleaned from such a small sample!

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