Urine Testing: The P in Powerful

Why Test?

Urine testing is much more than checking for a bladder infection. Did you know urine tests could reveal kidney issues before some blood tests will? Urine tests provide information about kidney and liver functioning, blood pressure issues, diabetes, dehydration, and infection.

We also check for crystals in the urine. Crystals can lead to bladder stones or blockage, something we all want to avoid–especially your pet! (See the image above!)

Urine testing, when combined with blood work, gives your veterinarian tremendous information on your pet’s health. You could say 1 + 1 = 3 in terms of the amount of information blood and urine results provide.

What Happens?

We perform four different tests from just a teaspoon or so of your pet’s urine. (If you bring in a whole cup–congrats! You are a ninja-level pee catcher.)

Urine Culture

This allows us to check for bacteria. A small amount is spread on a blood agar plate (the picture on the left below) and warmed for 24 hours. If bacteria grow, we will then run a sensitivity to see what antibiotic is best suited to treat the infection (pictured on the right).

bacterial growth on a culture platesensitivity plate showing antibiotic resistance





Urinalysisurinalysis strip

Urinalysis is a broad term for any testing of the urine, but in this step, we check for pH level, color, protein, blood, and glucose. Each provides information on a different aspect of your pet’s health. This little strip tells us a great deal!

Specific Gravity

This test shows how well the kidneys concentrate urine (i.e., how much water does it contain). Too much or too little water can indicate medical concerns like dehydration, diabetes, kidney disease, even thyroid issues in cats.

The tool we use is a hand-held device called a refractometer. Here is a look at what you would see looking through the refractometer. It is a simple test, but provides an important picture of your pet’s health.

refractometer refractometer readingrefractometer result



struvite crystals under the microscope

Sediment is the heavier particles in the urine. To find these, we spin the urine sample in a centrifuge so the solids settle to the bottom. The solids are stained with a special dye, spread on a microscope slide, and read under a microscope.

We might see red blood cells or crystals. Crystals often irritate the bladder and over time can turn into stones or plug your pet’s urinary tract (which is extremely serious).

When to Test Your Pet’s Urine?

Obviously if you think your pet is sick—you are seeing blood in the urine, your pet is trying to urinate frequently without success, cries when trying to urinate, or is excessively licking their genital area, give us a call. We may want to check out what is happening.

If your pet is otherwise healthy, we recommended starting to test urine for dogs at 6 years of age and cats around 7 years. We often check earlier with cats because they are prone to bladder infections.

If your pet is healthy and the urine results are normal, a yearly test after the initial one is a good idea. If your pet is having issues, we may test 2-4 times per year.