Liquid Gold: save time & money with urine

When talking urine testing, most think drugs, cyclists and sprinters, but in medical reality there are a diverse variety of diseases which can be diagnosed with urine. The non-compliant veterinary patient, who refuses to pee on demand in the clinic, poses a challenge to vet and pet owner. As unpleasant the idea may seem, collecting a urine sample in anticipation of a trip to the vet, may expedite diagnosis, cheaply and quickly. A $50, in-house urine test can occasionally see your pet diagnosed and receiving life saving treatment within minutes.

urine sample

Unlike blood, which we can suck from any number of sites and rarely runs dry, urine can only be found intermittently, in one place. Many bladders are empty on arrival at the vet clinic, voided in sheer terror on approach. For patients suffering cystitis, inflammation of the bladder, the sensation of constantly feeling like they need to pee may render them unable to hold-on to more than a few drops at a time.

If the bladder is too small to stick with a needle, there may be an 8-hour delay, waiting for a pussy or bitch to pee. The male dog, in contrast, can always be catheterised no matter how much he may resist the indignity.

Tests

Concentration

Many pet owners know from personal experience and multivitamin use: concentrated, deep-yellow urine is often, although not always, an indicator of dehydration. Vets can measure exactly how dilute or concentrated urine is, aiding in assessment of hydration, and also useful for identifying the abnormally thirsty patient.

Urine Color Chart

Dipstick

Tells us about the acidity and presence of protein, blood, glucose, urobilogen and ketones.

dipstick

Cytology

Looking at the particulate matter, suspended in urine, under the microscope. This is particularly useful for diagnosing infections and urinary stones or crystals.

crystals

Specific toxin tests

Rarely done in practice, except for detecting drug cheats in the racing industries, and urinary ALA for lead poisoning..

Diagnoses aided by urine tests:

Prostate: infections, cysts, benign bleeding and cancers.

Vagina: infections, uterine bleeding – oestrus or post-partum.

Bladder: infections, interstitial cystitis, bladder stones, cancer, trauma – bruising or rupture.

Kidney: damage or failure secondary to nephrotoxins, birth defects, infections, kidney stones, cancers, auto-immune diseases, glomeruonephropathies, hydronephrosis, Leptospirosis, Encephalitizoon, Fanconi syndrome.

Liver: damage or failure secondary to hepatotoxins, infections, and obstructions of bile – gall stones

Pancreas: obstructions of bile flow due to pancreatitis or cancer.

Blood: auto-immune haemolytic anaemias and thromobocytopenias, haemophilias.

Muscle: rhabdomyolitis, fitting, snake bite.

Spine: discospondylitis

Diseases of thirst: kidney failure, diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, ketoacidosis, Cushing’s disease, hyperthyroidism, psychogenic polydipsia, pyometra, some cancers.

Intoxications: snake bite, rat bait poisoning, lead poisoning, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, prescription drugs.

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Sure, some of these diseases are rare, but many are common and there are some diseases that can’t be diagnosed without a urine sample. Even when a urine sample is all normal the exercise is no waste of time, as we can assess hydration and immediately rule-out many of the diseases above.

If your pet’s problem is related to the urinary tract, with bloody or unusually smelly urine, or behaviours such as incontinent, difficult, frequent or painful urination, a urine sample is fundamentally important for diagnosis. Collecting urine beforehand can save the grief of leaving your pet in a hospital cage, waiting for Princess to pee.

The owner of a polydipsic (abnormally thirsty) patient may observe pet drinking more often, or find themselves filling water bowl or  changing kitty-litter more frequently.  Variation in thirst throughout the day, due to diet (salt content, dry/wet foods), exercise and weather, means a single urine sample may not suffice.  Rocking-up to the vet clinic with a polydipsic patient and multiple urine samples, collected at various times of day, will see your vet smile. This is especially important in the thirsty, old cat.

The majority of diseases don’t show-up anything much in the urine, but in the vet world, where there are often so many unknowns, urine can cheaply and quickly give us answers, as long as we have access to a sample.

Collection tips and techniques

  • Maximise your chances by exploiting daily habits: follow them out, first thing in the morning, or take a dish on a walk to the beach, and be committed to performing a volleyball dive.
  • Ideally, we like sterile samples but collection on a clean, dry bowl or plate, then transferred a household container is fine.  We will just need to be careful interpreting the presence of bacteria.
  • Vets can provide a syringe for sucking up urine from tiles or litter tray. There are special non-absorbent, plastic kitty litters (Catrine), especially good for cats with repeated and chronic urinary tract problems. Alternatively, simply using polystyrene, bean-bag balls as temporary kitty litter is ok, as long as you’ve got a child to recruit when cleaning up the mess.
  • Catheterisation: passing a fine plastic tube up the urethra, into the bladder. Easy in males, more difficult in females; pleasurable for some, uncomfortable for most.
  • Cystocentesis: passing a fine needle directly into the bladder through the abdominal wall. Also called a pre-pubic tap in man. Sounds gory but is often a bit of a non-event; often collected with little restraint, no anaesthesia, with owner present.

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