What Can a Urine Sample Tell Your Veterinarian?

by on May 29th, 2014
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The veterinarian has asked you to bring in a urine sample. You now find yourself chasing your dog around the yard with a bowl, trying to sneak up on her when she squats down for a pee. Can your vet really learn that much from a urine sample to warrant the hassle? The simple answer is yes.

There are a number of tests the veterinarian can perform on the urine sample within their practice. This article will review some of the routine tests in the basic urine examination.

Gross Examination: The first step in analysis of any urine sample is to look at the sample. Both colour and transparency of urine can tell the veterinary surgeon a number of things. If the urine colour is abnormally red, this may suggest cystitis or trauma to the bladder. If it is very pale, this may suggest that this animal is producing abnormally dilute urine. If the sample is flocculent, this can be a sign that the sample is old (and therefore a fresh one is required) or that there is a severe infection in the urinary tract. Sometimes during these examinations a odour may be noted, this can further support the presence of large volumes of bacteria.

Specific Gravity: By using a refractometer, the veterinarian is able to ascertain whether your pet is able to concentrate their urine appropriately. Urine that is too concentrated may reflect dehydration. Still a more significant concern is when the urine is dilute. This can be a sign of a number of conditions. Poorly concentrated urine can hint at kidney insufficiency. As well, dilution of urine, coupled with other tests, can determine whether a pet has diabetes or other endocrine abnormalities. This test is a good initial base line in the diagnosing polyuric inducing conditions.

pH: Urine normally has a pH range of 5.5-6.5, with some variation. In conditions where urine volume or components are altered, a change in pH can occur. Therefore, pH often monitored in routine urinalysis. For example, diabetics often demonstrate a lower urinary pH.

Protein: An important part of the urinalysis evaluation is checking urine protein levels. This can be done in a number of ways. Specific tests are available but these more advanced methodologies can only be performed in specialist diagnostic laboratories. In the practice, the veterinary surgeon will only be able to determine if the urinary protein volume is normal or not. Still this can be a valuable bit of knowledge, as increases in urinary protein can be seen in disorders of the kidney, inflammatory diseases, and some endocrine diseases. Therefore, this is a low cost way of evaluating if there is a problem and whether it warrants more specific testing.

Leucocytes (White blood cells): Presence of white blood cells in the urine can support any concerns over infection or inflammation of the urinary tract. While white blood cells do monitor the whole body on a low level, positive in urinalysis for the cells often highlights and supports a clinical disease. Therefore, their presence shouldn’t be ignored. Glucose/Ketones: Probably the most recognized abnormal change to monitor in urine examination is glucose and its counterpart ketones. Neither is found regularly in urine, and there presence demonstrates an abnormality when they occur. High levels of glucose in the urine often suggests that a patient may have diabetes or an aberration in their kidney’s ability to reuptake glucose. Therefore, this is a common focus of routine urinary examinations and when found requires confirmation. The routine tests typically include a few other features, namely bilirubin/ urobilinogen and nitrites.

Also, a veterinary surgeon may examine the sample under the microscope to rule out the presence of crystals (which can lead to bladder stones) or other abnormalities. But these tests might vary depending on the case at hand. Furthermore, depending on your pet’s clinical signs, your veterinarian may have to send the urine sample away for bacterial culture or other tests. While obtaining a urine sample is not a fun enterprise for the average pet owner, it does provide a useful non-invasive way of making sure a pet is healthy. And from this sample, a number of clues to the pet’s condition can be found. So, when your vet hands you that tube and asks for a urine sample, persevere and bring as much as you can.

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