Updated March 29, 2021
Has your vet asked you to collect a urine sample from your pet? Don’t despair! I’ve been guiding people through it for 25 years and no-one has failed yet.
Before we start, it might help to know why a pee sample can be important.
Why Is Urinalysis Needed?
With urine analysis (commonly called urinalysis), you can:
- Diagnose a urinary tract infection
- Separate behavioural from medical causes of urine spraying in cats
- Confirm kidney disease (after blood tests)
- Diagnose a portosystemic shunt
- Diagnose diabetes mellitus
- and so much more
The best container for urine collection is the yellow-top pot you get from your vet. If you don’t have one of these, any glass jar or plastic container will do as long as it’s clean and dry. Just make sure that anything sugary has been completely removed to avoid a false diagnosis of diabetes.
How To Get Urine From A Small Dog
Collecting urine from dogs is easiest on a walk. The best time to try is after a long rest, such as first thing in the morning or when you get home from work. For large dogs, all you have to do is hold the container under the stream. And maybe wear gloves!
Small dogs, especially females, urinate close to the ground and pass it quickly. Most of the time, whenever you try to put a container nearby, they get spooked and stop.
There are three tricks here:
- Collect the urine in a long flat container without a high lip. A kidney dish works well, but at home you could use the edge of a takeaway plastic container, a saucer or a tray. Once collected, you can pour it into the urine pot.
- Alternatively, make a handle for the urine pot using an old coat hanger, like in the picture above. Then you don’t need to bend down, and your dog will be less spooked.
- Be persistent! Even following the points above, your dog will probably keep stopping at first. However, after a while they settle down and decide that despite your weird behaviour, they still need to pee. This usually happens with 24 hours but could take a few weeks in very nervous animals.
How To Get Urine From A Cat
Urine collection from a cat, whether male or female is the same. It absolutely requires that they are already comfortable using a litter box.
- Empty the litter box, then wash and dry it thoroughly.
- Fill it with clean, non-absorbent material*
- Monitor your cat until you see them urinate in the box
- Pour off the sample into a urine pot
*Suitable nosorb litter includes:
- Thicker plastic shopping bags (e.g. from department or clothing stores) cut into fine strips
- Broken up plastic or styrofoam pieces
- Old Lego®, cleaned and dried first
- Aquarium pebbles
- Commercially available litter replacements such as Kit4Cat & Medicat
Some cats are such creatures of habit that they’ll even go into an empty box. See the help section below if your cat only toilets outside.
How Much Urine Is Needed?
Basic urinalysis can be performed on as little as two mLs of urine (a half teaspoon). That will allow a dipstick reading for blood, pH, protein, glucose, ketones, bilirubin, plus a urine concentration. The cost of this test is listed here.
We prefer you to collect as much as you can to allow for repeat testing, or to submit it to a laboratory.
How Long Is A Sample Good For?
A urine sample should be analysed on the same day it is collected. Excessive storage causes crystals to form and the pH to rise. Therefore, it is best to only attempt to collect it on the days your vet is open. If there is no other choice, an older sample is still better than nothing.
Should I Refrigerate The Urine?
Refrigeration is not advised or necessary for samples kept at room temperature and submitted on the same day they are collected. Like prolonged storage, it causes crystals to form. This can be important if we are looking for the cause of bladder stones in dogs or urinary obstruction in cats.
For other reasons, refrigeration is less of a concern and it will slow down bacterial overgrowth of the sample.
Help! I Can’t Get A Urine Sample
If all else fails, your vet can collect the sample for you. This is either done with a urinary catheter, or via a needle and syringe. The latter technique is essential if infection is suspected and we wish to culture the bacteria for identification.
One option is to make a regular appointment and prevent your pet urinating for 4 hours beforehand so they have a large bladder. Many times, your vet can collect the sample right there and you can take your pet home again.
Other times, we may need to hospitalise your pet while we wait for the bladder to fill. As a last resort, especially in stressed animals, we may recommend a sedation for urine collection.
Regardless of how we do it, urine provides valuable, and often life-changing information. It’s always worth the effort to get!
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!