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Urinalysis Test in Cats

What is a urinalysis test?

You can learn a great deal about your cat's physical wellbeing from a urine sample. A urinalysis test (also known as UA) is a series of physical and chemical tests performed on urine.

A sample is taken and is examined for its physical properties; specific gravity, colour and clarity, and biochemically for pH, protein, glucose, bilirubin and ketones, and microscopically for blood cells, crystals, casts (solid, tubular deposits) and bacteria.A Urinalysis can detect  diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and infections of the urinary tract.

Visual examination:  Turbidity (cloudiness) and colour of the urine is visualised, normal urine is amber/yellow coloured and clear, abnormal urine may be cloudy or contain blood.

Specific Gravity (SG): This test measures how well the kidneys are able to concentrate urine and the amount of substances dissolved in the urine. The test measures the weight of the urine compared to the same quantity of water. The higher the specific urine gravity, the more solid material is dissolved in the urine.

Dipstick analysis: A chemical test strip looks for blood, glucose, protein, bilirubin and ketones in the urine. 

  • White blood cells (pyuria) - Normally white blood cells are not present in the urine. The presence of white blood cells may indicate a urinary tract infection, kidney disease or cancer.

  • Red blood cells (hematuria) - As with white blood cells, normally red blood cells are not present in the urine. Their presence may be indicative of inflammation, disease, injury to the ureters, bladder or urethra.

  • Protein (proteinuria) - Protein is not normally found in urine. The results should be viewed in conjunction with the urine specific gravity. Protein in dilute urine has more significance than protein in the concentrated urine. Some causes of protein in the urine include  inflammation,  haemorrhage or kidney disease.

  • Glucose (glucosuria) - Glucose is a type of sugar usually found in the blood. There should be no glucose in the urine. A common cause of glucose in the urine is diabetes.

  • Bilirubin (Bilirubinuria) - Bilirubin is an orange bile pigment made by the liver. The presence of bilirubin in the urine may indicate liver disease or haemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), renal disease, Feline Hepatic Lipidosis and FIP.

  • Ketones - There should be no ketones in the normal cat. These are produced in the body when fats, rather than glucose are used to produce energy. Large amounts of ketones in the urine may indicate diabetic ketoacidosis or insufficient food intake/malnutrition.

  • Urine pH - is a measure of the acidity/alkalinity of the urine. Normal pH is around 6 - 7. This can vary depending on diet, medications and disease. Cats tend to have a slightly acidic pH.

Microscopic examination:

A sample of urine is centrifuged and the sediment is examined under a microscope for; crystals, red blood cells, white blood cells, casts (solid, tubular deposits), bacteria and yeasts. 

  • White blood cells (pyuria) - Normally white blood cells are not present in the urine. The presence of white blood cells may indicate a urinary tract infection, kidney disease or cancer.

  • Red blood cells (hematuria) - As with white blood cells, normally red blood cells are not present in the urine. Their presence may be indicative of inflammation, disease, injury to the ureters, bladder or urethra.

  • Casts (cylindruria) - These are cylindrical structures formed by mucoprotein congealing within renal tubules (tiny tubes in the kidneys).  These can be made of different types of material including red blood cells, white blood cells, fatty substances, renal tubular epithelial cell casts  or protein. These casts can provide a clue about the type of disease which your cat may have.

  • Crystals (crystalluria) -  Several different types of crystal may be found in urine. The most commonly found crystals are struvite and calcium oxalate. The presence of these in the urine isn't a definite diagnosis of urolithiasis. A few specific types, however, can be important in certain clinical situations.

  • Bacteria - If a sterile sample has been taken and large amounts of bacteria are found then this is indicative of a bladder infection.

How is the urine sample taken?

There are several methods your veterinarian may use in order to obtain a urine sample.

Catheterization - This involves inserting a tube into the urethra. Sedation may be required.

Cystocentesis: This is the use of a syringe and needle inserted through the abdominal wall to obtain uncontaminated urine directly from the bladder. If a sterile sample is required, this is the best method for obtaining a urine sample from your cat.

Free catch: This involves the pet's owner obtaining a sample of urine from home. The advantages are that the sample can be obtained without a trip to the veterinarian, unfortunately, a urine sample obtained this way won't be sterile.

Also see:

Biochemical profile   Complete blood count