We at Boulder and Northside Emergency Pet Clinics strongly believe in educating our clients to help them be the best cat and dog owners they can be. In order to help you make the best choices for your pet's medical care, our Boulder and Westminster veterinarians will talk to you today about urinalysis for dogs and cats as well as how to interpret your pet's urinalysis results.

Why would my vet recommend a urinalysis?

A urinalysis is a simple diagnostic test that determines the physical and chemical properties of urine. It is primarily used to evaluate the health of the kidneys and urinary system, but it can also reveal issues with other organ systems. All cats and dogs eight years of age and older should have a yearly urinalysis. A urinalysis may also be recommended if your cat or dog has increased water intake, increased frequency of urination, or visible blood in the urine.

How is urine collected in cats and dogs?

There are three main ways to collect urine from cats and dogs:

Cystocentesis: Using a sterile needle and syringe, urine is drawn from the bladder. The advantage of cystocentesis is that it prevents lower urinary tract debris from contaminating the urine. This sample is perfect for diagnosing bacterial infection as well as evaluating the bladder and kidneys. The procedure is only beneficial if the pet's bladder is full and is a little more invasive than others.

Catheterization: Catheterization is a less invasive method of extracting urine from the bladder in dogs and is an excellent choice when a voluntary sample is unavailable, particularly in male dogs. A very narrow sterile catheter is inserted into the bladder through the lower urinary passage (called the urethra).

Mid-stream Free Flow: The animal urinates voluntarily, and as it does so, a sample is taken and placed in a sterile container. The terms "free flow" and "free catch" are frequently used to describe this kind of sample. This approach has the advantages of being completely non-invasive and allowing the cat or dog owner to collect the urine sample at home.

Understanding the Results of a Urinalysis

There are four main parts to a urinalysis:

  1. Assess appearance: color and turbidity (cloudiness).
  2. Measure the concentration (also known as the density) of the urine.
  3. Measure pH (acidity) and analyze the chemical composition of the urine.
  4. Examine the cells and solid material (urine sediment) present in the urine using a microscope.

Urine samples should be analyzed within 30 minutes of collection because other factors, such as crystals, bacteria, and cells, can alter composition. Please send any urine samples you collect from home to your local veterinary clinic as soon as possible. The exact timing of urine collection is usually unimportant unless they are evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine or performing a Cushing's disease screening. If they are testing for Cushing's disease or evaluating your pet's ability to concentrate urine, they must collect a urine sample first thing in the morning.

Color & Turbidity

Urine is clear or slightly cloudy and varies in color from pale yellow to light amber. Dark yellow urine usually indicates that the animal is dehydrated or should drink more water. If the urine is orange, red, brown, or black instead of yellow, it could indicate a health problem. Such urine may contain substances that are not normally present in healthy urine.

Increased turbidity or cloudiness in urine indicates the presence of cells or other solid particles. Turbidity rises when there is blood, inflammatory cells, crystals, mucus, or debris present. The sediment will be examined to see what is there and if it is significant.


Consider concentration to be the density of the urine. A healthy kidney produces dense (concentrated) urine, whereas watery (dilute) urine in dogs and cats may indicate underlying disease.

The kidneys allow excess water in the body to be expelled in the urine, causing it to become more watery or dilute. When there is a lack of water, the kidneys increase urine concentration by reducing water loss.

If a dog or cat passes dilute urine on occasion, it is not cause for concern. If a cat or dog consistently produces dilute urine, there may be an underlying kidney or metabolic disease that necessitates further investigation.

pH & Chemical Composition

The pH of urine reveals its acidity. Healthy cats or dogs' urine usually has a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. Bacteria can thrive and crystals or stones can form in an acidic (pH < 6) or alkaline (pH > 7) environment. Urine levels typically fluctuate throughout the day, especially after consuming certain foods and medications. A single urine pH reading is irrelevant if the rest of the urinalysis is normal. If it consistently exhibits abnormal behavior, your veterinarian may want to investigate further.

Cells & Solid Material (Urine Sediment)

Some of the cells present in the urine can include:

Protein: Protein should not be found in urine on a dipstick test. A positive protein in urine test may indicate a bacterial infection, kidney disease, or blood in the urine.

Sugar: Urine should not contain any sugar. The presence of sugar in the urine may signal the presence of Diabetes mellitus.

Ketones: If your cat or dog tests positive for ketones in its urine, a Diabetes Mellitus workup will be performed. Ketones are abnormal byproducts that your pet's cells produce when they lack an adequate energy source.

Bilirubin: An abnormal finding called bilirubinuria shows that the red blood cells in your pet's bloodstream are depleting more quickly than usual. It has been discovered in animals with autoimmune and liver diseases. It's important to keep in mind that cats and dogs with blood in their urine from a bladder infection may mistakenly stain the bilirubin pad on the dipstick, raising the possibility of a more severe liver condition.

Urobilinogen: Urobilinogen in urine indicates that the bile duct is open and bile can flow from the gallbladder into the intestine.

Blood: Blood in a dog's or cat's urine can indicate an infection, an inflammatory problem, or stones in the bladder or kidney. The dipstick can detect red blood cells or other blood components, such as hemoglobin or myoglobin, in your pet's urine.

Urine Sediment: Urine sediment should also be examined when conducting a urinalysis. Urine sediment is the material that settles to the bottom of a centrifuge after spinning a urine sample. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and crystals are the most common things found in urine sediment. Small amounts of mucus and other debris are frequently found in free-catch samples.

Red Blood Cells: Red blood cells may indicate bladder wall or kidney trauma or irritation. In cats and dogs with bladder or kidney infections, bladder stones, or interstitial cystitis, the technician will find red blood cells in the urine. It may also be an early sign of cancer of the urinary tract.

White Blood Cells: White blood cells could indicate an infection or an inflammatory process in the bladder or kidney.

Crystals: Crystals come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Unique crystals can help with the diagnosis of a particular condition. The crystals offer information that can affect how a disease is treated in more prevalent conditions like bladder infections. Your veterinarian may want to examine a fresh sample of urine right away because crystals can develop in urine after it has been collected.

Bacteria: It is possible that there is a bacterial infection somewhere in the urinary system given the presence of bacteria and inflammatory cells in the sediment. In order to identify the types of bacteria present and the appropriate antibiotic to treat the infection, the urine should ideally be sent to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing.

Tissue Cells: Increased cellularity has been connected to a number of diseases, including cancer, prostate problems, bladder stones, inflammation of the urinary tract, and stones in the bladder. Samples taken during catheterization frequently have more tissue cells than usual. Your veterinarian might suggest having the sediment cytologically prepared if the cells seem abnormal. This makes it possible to look at the tissue cells in greater detail.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding cats and dogs. For an accurate diagnosis of your cat or dog's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you notice any unusual symptoms in your pet, such as frequent urination or blood in the urine, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical attention. Contact our Boulder and Westminster vets right away.