Testing Your Pet’s Urine for Wellness or Disease
by Lorie Huston, DVM on August 16, 2013
Today, I’ve been asked by Access Pet Wellness, the makers of the PawCheck line of home urine tests for dogs and cats, to discuss how testing your pet’s urine can help you (and your veterinarian) determine whether your pet is healthy or is suffering from an illness. Some of the disease conditions that can be detected, in full or in part, through urine testing include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and urinary tract infection.
In the interest of full disclosure (and per Federal Trade Commission guidelines), I need to disclose that I am being compensated by Access Pet Wellness for providing this post and this information to you. However, as always, the words, facts, and opinions in this post are provided solely by me.
We’ll talk first about the tests that your veterinarian may perform on your pet’s urine. Then we’ll visit the issue of testing your pet’s urine at home and find out why or when you might want to consider doing so and how you might go about that type of testing.
What can your pet’s pee tell you about his health?
Veterinary Urine Testing
So let’s talk a little bit first about some of the urine tests that your veterinarian might recommend doing for your pet and why those tests are important.
The most common test that is performed by veterinarians on a sample of pet urine is known as a urinalysis. A urinalysis (or UA as it is often called) actually involves testing your pet’s urine for a number of different substances. A typical urinalysis tests for the following:
*Visual Assessment: Your pet’s urine will examined visually for any discoloration or abnormality in the clarity of the urine.
*Urine Specific Gravity: This is a measure of the concentration of your pet’s urine. Healthy pets should be able to produce relatively concentrated urine. If the urine is too dilute, measured as an abnormally low urine specific gravity, your pet may be suffering from a disease condition that affects his ability to produce concentrated urine. This may result from diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and many others.
*Urine pH: Measures the acidity of your pet’s urine. The lower the pH number, the more acidic the urine. The pH of urine can provide clues as to which types of stones are likely to be problematic in cases where bladder stones (calculi) are present. Some types of stones form in urine with lower pH values and others are more likely to be found at higher pH values. Some types of bacteria also prefer specific pH ranges. Manipulating the pH value can be useful for handling some urinary tract issues.
*Glucose: Commonly referred to as “sugar”, glucose in the urine is most frequently an indication of diabetes although stress can cause glucose to show up in the urine in some cases also, particularly with cats.
*Ketones: Most often found in the urine of diabetic animals. Ketosis occurs when glucose cannot be utilized for energy production. Body fat is then broken down into ketones that can pass through the kidneys into the urine. Ketones in the urine quite often indicate a crisis situation.
*Bilirubin: Bilirubin, a product of red blood cell breakdown, is normally removed in the liver and becomes part of the bile. When it is found in the urine, it can be an indication of liver disease or other illnesses, such as bleeding disorders.
*Blood: Blood may be found in the urine for a number of different reasons. Referred to as hematuria, blood in the urine can be an indication of urinary tract infection, kidney or bladder stones, kidney disease, cancer of the urinary tract, or bleeding disorders.
*Protein: Protein in the urine can be caused by kidney disease as well as other illnesses.
*Urine Sediment: Examining the urine sediment involves separating the cells and other solid matter from the fluid portion of the urine through centrifugation. The sediment is examined for red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, casts, crystals, mucous, or other cells. Essentially, this portion of the urinalysis looks at the cellular and solid component of the urine, searching for abnormal numbers of cells or other materials which should not normally be present in the urine. It can provide additional clues as to the state of your pet’s health.
Normally, a urinalysis is recommended as part of a routine health examination and should be performed on a regular basis. Your veterinarian may also request a urinalysis if your pet is ill, to help determine the cause of the illness.
In some cases, your veterinarian may also perform even more specialized urine testing.
*One such test is the urine culture and sensitivity, which identifies the specific type of bacteria causing a urinary tract infection and tests the efficacy of various antibiotics against that bacteria.
*In some cases, a protein:creatinine ratio may be necessary to quantify the degree of protein loss through the kidneys and evaluate its significance.
*A urine cortisol:creatinine ratio may be used as a screening test for hyperadrenocortisism, or Cushing’s disease.
*There are many other specific urine tests that your veterinarian may find necessary depending on your pet’s individual problem.
Home Urine Testing: Does It Have Any Value?
Testing your pet’s urine at home won’t necessarily replace the necessity of having your veterinarian perform urine testing. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to do the in-depth type of testing that your veterinarian can perform. However, periodic home testing of your pet’s urine can allow you to keep an eye on your pet’s health between veterinary visits. It is especially useful for pets that have had prior health issues with urinary tract disease, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infection, cystitis, or urinary tract obstruction. Testing might also be useful for pets that are at high risk for specific disease conditions, such as diabetes or congenital kidney disease.
Access Pet Wellness offers a line of PawCheck home urine test kits that can help you screen your pet for diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, and overall wellness.
Though monitoring your pet’s activity is important, these home tests provide an additional means of monitoring your pet’s health. If your pet’s results on any of these tests are abnormal, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. See my review of the PawCheck urine tests for more information.
About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette