What is a urinalysis for dogs and cats

Health care questions and answers about puppies and dogs

What Is A Urinalysis? 
All about evaluating a urine sample from dogs and cats

One of the simplest tests done in human and veterinary medicine is the urinalysis.  Shortened from urine analysis, the urinalysis  reveal much about the health of the individual.  The analytics are sensitive enough to detect even a small amount of blood, protein, sugar and other aspects of the urine.

Annual health checkups often include a blood chemistry profile, a urinalysis and fecal exam.  These are the "Big Three" parameters that give us early warnings of abnormal pet health status.

Health care questions and answers about cats and kittens

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  If your pet is sick, call your local veterinarian immediately!

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 I brought a urine sample from my Shih Tzu to the vet's office and when they called back they said everything looked normal.
  It looked normal to me, too, in the little plastic bottle I caught it in.  What did the vet do that warranted a 28 dollar fee to tell me it looked normal?

Kidney cysts in a cat

This diseased kidney from a 5 year old cat was first noticed by checking a urine sample

Answer:    urine sample... analysis... what is...
Perhaps you deserved a little more info than "it looked normal" but I'm certain their meaning was that there were no abnormal findings in any of the parameters tested.  A urinalysis is composed of tests for chemicals normally or abnormally excreted in the urine as well as solid material present in the sample.  These solids are called the sediment.  And the density or concentration of the urine is tested doing an evaluation of specific gravity (SpG)... which answers the question "is the urine dilute or concentrated?"
The usual items documented in a urinalysis (short for urine analysis) are:
color clarity blood biliruben WBCs RBCs SpG pH

Sediment:  cells bacteria crystals casts debris  

     The sediment is made up of any solid particles in the urine such as white blood cells, bacteria and crystals and is obtained by spinning a small amount of urine in a centrifuge to pack the solids at the bottom of the centrifuge tube.  The urine is discarded and the concentrated sediment particles are placed on a glass slide and examined under the microscope. In a normal urine sample there should be very little, if any, sediment.

     It's best to test a urine sample at least once a year.  Dogs and cats seldom show signs of UTI until it has progressed to a stage where actual bleeding or pain is evident.  Frequent urination, straining to urinate, attempts to urinate in several small amounts instead of a single micturition (voiding of urine), are all signals that something is amiss!

Doctor's Notes
Annual Exams...
     Most veterinarians recommend dogs and cats have an annual physical exam that includes blood tests.  Checking a urine sample should also be a part of the annual exam.

Frequent urinating...
Frequent urinating is called polyuria and can be a sign of kidney disease, diabetes and other disorders.  A urine sample and blood chemistry panel should be analyzed to find the cause of the polyuria.

Cats and Kidney Failure...
Older cats often develop hyperthyroidism.  One of the effects of hyperthyroidism is a rise in blood pressure that can harm delicate kidney tissues.  There are medications to assist with high blood pressure in dogs and cats.


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cat UTI with bloody urine preventing urinary tract infections dog purulent vaginitis cat spay surgery
Fresh blood is visible in this cat's urine but the problem has been present for a long time. A good diet and consistent preventative medical care can often 
prevent urinary tract infections
This dog has chronic urinary tract infections due to undiagnosed vulvar folds that created chronic vaginitis Straining to urinate or simply standing 
with no urine production is a 
clue there's a problem
urine analysis equipment urinalysis specific gravity test microscopic urine sediment analysis xray bladder stones in a dog
These are some of the items used to analyze a urine sample With just a few drops a  gravinometer measures the specific gravity (concentration) of the urine The urine is spun in a centrifuge to pack the solids at the bottom of the test tube and the sediment is analyzed under the microscope Chronic urinary tract infections demand that ultrasound or radiography be done to find any bladder stones or tumors

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I recently found out my 12 year old cat is in kidney failure, which seems strange to me because she is drinking plenty of water and is urinating more now than she ever did.  
     I don't understand how she could be in kidney failure when she's urinating so much.  She is losing weight, though, and doesn't eat like she should.

Kidney failure...
Complete failure or shutdown of the kidneys can occur from antifreeze poisoning and grape toxicity.  When the kidneys begin to fail to remove body waste products the dog or cat will consume loads of water and urinate more frequently.  This is called polydipsia and  polyuria.

Answer:  cat kidney failure... polyuria... polydipsia...
The kidneys are organs that do not repair themselves very well like the skin, bone and liver do.  So as time goes by the tiny tubules in each kidney can become less effective at excreting waste products and retaining protein and sugar.  Each kidney has tens of thousands of these delicate tubules but they cannot be reproduced or repaired once they degenerate, become plugged with protein, or are damaged by infection, fever or blood pressure issues.
   When about 75 percent of the tubules fail many waste products start to build up in the blood.  Two common waste products that are measured in a blood chemistry panel are BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and Creatinine.  When these chemicals remain in the blood the dog or cat becomes toxic, feels thirsty all the time, drinks and urinates more than normal and loses its appetite.  Plus, weight loss is common in kidney failure because of the poor appetite and loss of nutrients into the urine that the kidney tubules normally would retain in the body.
     That's why urine samples from pets with kidney disease often show lots of sugar (glucose) and protein in the sample.  Plus, with all the polydipsia (excessive drinking) and polyuria (excessive urinating) the urine from dogs and cats with kidney disease is usually very dilute.  This is measured by checking the concentration of the urine's specific gravity (SpG).
     We use the term "kidney failure"  because the  kidneys are in the process of failing to do their necessary jobs.  Total failure to produce any urine at all is termed anuria.  Most patients die or are mercifully euthanized before total kidney failure occurs.    


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Keep urine samples cool until they can be checked by your veterinarian.  Bacteria can reproduce very rapidly at room temperature.

Someone told me grapes are very toxic to a dog's kidneys.  I've fed grapes to my dog, and I eat 'em too, and we're both doing fine!
     What's up with this grape toxicity thing?


Answer:  grape toxicity... dogs... what is...      
     Grape toxicity is a real syndrome in dogs and has only recently been documented to  be a genuine threat.  There are many documented cases where soon after eating grapes the dog becomes anuric (produces no urine) and dies rapidly from kidney failure no matter what level of life support is maintained.
     The difficulty is many dogs are fed grapes and have no ill effects at all!  Why does one dog die quickly from complete renal (kidney) failure and other dogs and people do not.  My own theory is that there may be a fungus that grows on or in just a few  grapes, and possibly only grapes from a certain geographic locale.  The fungus or mold produces a toxin that has highly specific affects on the dog's renal tubules but not a human's renal tubules.
     There are hundreds of fungus and mold toxins associated with foods such as grains and fruits and they seldom produce illness; nevertheless, there are some toxins that are highly toxic to mammals.  Perhaps with grape toxicity there are just a few grapes in a bunch that happen to have a specific mold growing on or in the grapes that secretes a chemical that is highly toxic to dog's kidneys but does nothing to a human's kidney tissues.
     The moral of this long story is do not feed any grapes to any dog for any reason!   Until we know more about this deadly issue with "grapes" your dog might prefer a little tidbit of cooked chicken for a treat... and would surely benefit from it.

The specific gravity (density) of distilled pure water is designated 1.000.  Anything less dense than distilled pure water will be less than 1.000, such as 0.876.  In dogs and cats the normal SpG is between 1.020 and 1.050.  In kidney failure the urine SpG, no matter how much or little water the patient drinks, usually  stays steady at about 1.010. 


Call your veterinarian if your dog or cat displays any changes on water consumption or urine output.

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