Along with your pet’s blood, the urine is one of the most important indicators of disease, especially those involving metabolism and urinary health. The results from pet urinalysis are usually put side by side with those from blood tests to see whether there’s any clue as to what an animal might be suffering from.
A urine test is one of the cheapest and most basic ones that your vet is likely to recommend in a variety of situations.
But what can pet urinalysis reveal? How much exactly is it going to cost you? We’re answering these questions and more in this article, so keep on reading!
Before the urine test happens
A sample needs to be collected. And this can be done by using several methods. The first and most obvious one would be for you to collect it whenever your dog or cat wants to use the ‘bathroom.’ While it might be easier with dogs, it is not going to be the same with cats, so some pet owners actually empty out the litter box completely and let their pet urinate in the empty container. Then, whatever liquid’s there gets sent to the veterinary clinic.
Another method of collecting urine can be done at the animal hospital and involves the use of a catheter. This method is not comfortable for either females or males, but it can be particularly traumatizing for males. While the technique is certainly less invasive than the last one we will mention, it’s not pain-free, so animals might sometimes have to be sedated at least mildly.
Finally, the most invasive way of collecting a urine sample is by doing so right from the urinary bladder. It can happen while making a very small puncture through the abdominal wall into the bladder. This method is by far the ‘cleanest’ in terms of contamination risks, meaning that the only germs that will be found in the urine are those right from the urinary tract and not those that might have come from the pet’s genitalia or hairs in that area.
How is pet urine analyzed?
There are two types of examinations when it comes to your companion’s urine. The first involves a regular exam where the veterinarian examines how the urine looks in terms of color and clarity and also senses any strange smells.
The second involves urine chemistry tests which can be varied, but most of them are used for a correct diagnosis plan.
There will be some indicators that the vet will look for in this sense, such as whether your pet eliminates protein or glucose through their urine or if there are any significant changes in terms of the pH.
Some of the other details that urine chemistry can reveal are the amount of bilirubin present, whether there are ketones revealed, or if your pet eliminates blood in this way.
The specific gravity is another indicator that needs to be assessed as it can reveal whether the animal has an infection or if the urine is too diluted, which could be a sign of other abnormalities, such as hypercalcemia, hyperthyroidism, renal failure, and other such health issues.
Although it definitely sounds like a complex exam, veterinary medicine and the machines used in practice have evolved a lot over the years. Several decades ago, the vet needed to perform all of these exams manually and using various techniques and tools. These days, there are devices that can give the results of all of these tests in a matter of under 30 minutes.
Analyzing the urine sediment is an additional exam that the vet can perform and that can reveal anything from red or white blood cells or the specific types of crystals that your pet eliminates from their body.
While everything noted here can be a part of the routine urine examinations that a vet performs, sometimes they might choose specific details to test depending on what diagnosis they suspect.
What can your pet’s urine tell you about their health?
The answer to this question is quite complex. After blood testing, urine testing is perhaps one of the most important ones that we now have at our disposal when it comes to diagnosing health issues.
For example, when talking about chemical indicators, there are some diseases that the vet can suspect based on your pet’s urine results. Protein and glucose should ideally never be present in an animal’s urine as they can indicate kidney disease or diabetes.
Ketones can be an indicator that the pet is either not getting the proper nutrition or experiencing malabsorption or some other type of metabolic complication that makes them starve even if you feed them enough nutritious food. Blood can be a sign of trauma, but it can also reveal an infection.
Bilirubin and urobilinogen are typically associated with some type of damage to the bile duct or liver.
Do keep in mind that for all of these indicators, there are minimum and maximum amounts, and most are pretty clear, which can help with an appropriate diagnosis.
The urine sediment can reveal different things depending on what the vet discovers in it. Red blood cells can suggest some type of bleeding or a health problem that is more complex, such as a coagulation issue. White blood cells are a fairly good clue that the pet has an infection, whereas crystals can point to bladder or kidney stones.
Even regular cells that have come from the tissues inside your dog’s body, such as the urinary bladder lining, can suggest certain health issues.
The sediment is typically examined under the microscope, so it is a physical exam that your vet or another specialist can perform.
How often should you test your pet’s urine?
It depends on several factors, such as your pet’s otherwise health in general, their breed and if they are genetically predisposed to some medical conditions, and lastly, their age.
Pets should be taken to the vet clinic at least once a year until they get to the age of 6-7 years. After that, they should be seen by a veterinarian twice a year (once every six months) just to make sure that any health problem can be treated swiftly and with minimum consequences for the pet’s general status.
As you probably know, geriatric animals have a higher chance of developing more severe complications, including cancer, so diagnosing and treating such conditions is definitely beneficial for everyone involved.
You can ask your vet to test your pet’s urine once or twice a year or bring a sample with you to your appointment. Some vets do not perform urinalysis on a regular basis because collecting the urine can be challenging, but they will surely test your pet’s blood, which could lead to urinalysis as a result of something suspicious they might have found.
How much does pet urinalysis cost?
The cost can vary depending on the hospital, the specialist, or even how detailed the urinalysis is. Most basic tests are priced at around $30 to $50, but they can go up to $100 if they involve additional techniques.
Besides the methods that we have described in this article, there could be extra costs involved in procedures such as testing the urine for infections and discovering the exact pathogen present in the pet’s urine and what medication it is sensitive to (bacteriological exam and an antibiogram).
These tests are usually done at the lab by microbiologists or technicians, so they can add up. In conclusion, you should not expect to pay more than $150 for any urine tests on the whole.