Why does my pet need a urinalysis?

At East Coweta Veterinary Hospital we like to educate our clients on topics they may not understand yet as new pet owners. In this article, our Sharpsburg vets will discuss urinalysis for pets, as well as how to understand urinalysis results.

What is a urinalysis?

A urinalysis is a simple diagnostic test that determines the visual, physical, and chemical properties of urine. It is used to detect the health of the kidneys and urinary system. This test can also reveal issues with other organ systems. Our vets recommend that all dogs should have a yearly urinalysis. A urinalysis may be recommended if your pet has increased water intake, increased frequency of urination, or visible blood in the urine. 

How is urine collected?

There are three main ways to collect urine from cats and dogs:

  • Cystocentesis: In this process, urine is collected from the bladder with a syringe. Cystocentesis is beneficial because the urine is not contaminated by debris. This sample is ideal for evaluating the bladder and kidneys as can detect bacterial infection. This procedure is slightly more invasive than others and can only be used on a full bladder.
  • Mid-stream Free Flow: This is the process where a sample is collected into a sterile container as the pet urinates. This type of sample is frequently referred to as a "free flow" or "free catch" sample. This method is beneficial because it is completely non-invasive and the pet owner can collect the urine sample at home.
  • Catheterization:  The process of Catheterization is a less invasive method of extracting urine from the bladder in dogs. It is an excellent choice when a voluntary sample is unavailable, particularly in male dogs. A very narrow sterile catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra.

Understanding the Results of a Urinalysis

For the most accurate results, urine samples should be read within 30 minutes of the collection. This is because other factors such as crystals, bacteria, and cells can alter the composition. If you collect a urine sample at home, please return it as soon as possible to your veterinary clinic. If we are screening for Cushing's disease or evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine, we want a urine sample taken first thing in the morning. 

Color & Turbidity

Dark yellow urine usually indicates that the pet needs to drink more water or is dehydrated. Urine that is orange, red, brown, or black may contain substances that are not normally found in healthy urine and could indicate an underlying health issue

Increased turbidity or cloudiness in the urine indicates the presence of cells or other solid materials. Turbidity increases when there is blood, inflammatory cells, crystals, mucus, or debris present. The sediment will be examined to determine what is present and whether it is significant.


Concentration refers to the density of urine. A healthy kidney produces dense or concentrated urine, whereas watery or dilute urine in dogs can indicate underlying disease.

When there is an excess of water in the body, the kidneys allow it to pass out in the urine, making the urine more watery or dilute. If a dog passes dilute urine from time to time, it is not necessarily a cause for concern. If a pet continuously passes dilute urine, there may be an underlying kidney or metabolic disease that requires further investigation.

pH & Chemical Composition

The pH level of a pet's urine indicates its acidity. The pH of urine in healthy pets is usually between 6.5 and 7.0. If the pH is acidic or alkaline, bacteria can thrive and crystals or stones can form. There are variations in urine that occur throughout the day, especially when certain foods and medications are consumed. If the rest of the urinalysis is normal, a single urine pH reading from your dog is not cause for concern. If it is consistently abnormal, your veterinarian may wish to investigate further.

Cells & Urine Sediment

Some of the cells present in the urine can include:

Protein: Protein is not good to find in urine. This may indicate a bacterial infection, kidney disease, or blood in the urine.

Sugar: Urine should not contain any sugar. The presence of sugar in the urine may signal the presence of Diabetes.

Ketones: Ketones are abnormal byproducts that your pet's cells produce when they lack an adequate energy source.

Bilirubin: Bilirubinuria is an abnormal finding that indicates that red blood cells in your pet's bloodstream are being destroyed at an abnormally fast rate. Bilirubin has been found in pets suffering from liver disease and autoimmune diseases.

Urobilinogen: If Urobilinogen is found in urine, this indicates that the bile duct is open and bile can flow from the gallbladder into the intestine.

Bacteria: The presence of bacteria suggests that there is a bacterial infection somewhere in the urinary system. The urine should ideally be sent to a laboratory to determine what types of bacteria are present and which antibiotic should be used to treat the infection.

Tissue Cells: While not necessarily a sign of disease, increased cellularity has been linked to several conditions, including urinary tract inflammation, bladder stones, prostate issues, and cancer. Catheterization samples frequently contain an increased number of tissue cells. If the cells appear abnormal, your veterinarian may advise you to have the sediment cytologically prepared. This enables a more in-depth examination of the tissue cells.

Blood: Blood in a dog's or cat's urine can indicate an infection, an inflammatory problem, or stones in the bladder or kidney. The dipstick can detect red blood cells or other blood components, such as hemoglobin or myoglobin, in your pet's urine.

Urine sediment should also be examined when conducting a urinalysis for dogs. Urine sediment is the material that settles to the bottom of a centrifuge after spinning a urine sample. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and crystals are the most common things found in urine sediment. Small amounts of mucus and other debris are frequently found in free-catch samples.

Red Blood Cells: Red blood cells may indicate bladder wall or kidney trauma or irritation. In pets with bladder or kidney infections, bladder stones, or interstitial cystitis, the technician will find red blood cells in the urine. It may also be an early sign of cancer of the urinary tract.

White Blood Cells: White blood cells could indicate an infection or an inflammatory process in the bladder or kidney.

Crystals: Numerous types of crystals vary in size, shape, and color. Some crystals are one-of-a-kind and can aid in the diagnosis of a specific condition. In more common conditions, such as bladder infections, the crystals provide data that can influence how the disease is treated. Because crystals can form in urine after it has been collected, your veterinarian may want to examine a fresh sample right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet scheduled for a urinalysis with Carolina Veterinary Specialists?  Contact our Sharpsburg veterinarians today if you have any questions about the procedure or need more help understanding possible results.