Has your veterinarian uttered those dreaded words: “Can you collect a urine sample from Fluffy and bring it into the clinic?” How do you get your pet to “pee in a cup”? Well, the collection approach differs for dogs and cats, and usually involves some degree of persistence, patience, good timing and good luck.
Collecting urine from a dog
This really is an opportunity for you to practise your dexterity, reflexes and stealth! Ensure you have a clean collection container at hand when you walk your dog. This might be a sterile pot your vet has given you, or another larger container such as a takeaway food container, and then transfer the sample to a pot or jar with a sealable lid. The container must be clean because any contaminants could alter the urinalysis results.
Collecting a sample from female dogs, and from males who prefer to squat, can be more challenging than with males who prefer vertical surfaces such as trees, fire hydrants and the neighbour’s car.
If you wear a disposable glove, this will protect your hand if your timing and aim isn’t as accurate as you hoped! It is a “simple” (in theory) matter of holding out the container to catch the flow of urine from your dog. Sounds easy, right? Well, if you’re also holding your dog’s lead, your next challenge is not spilling the urine before you have it safely stored with the lid on. A volume of ½ cup of urine is usually ample; often less is required so if you only get a small amount don’t discard it.
Collecting urine from a cat
The degree of difficulty depends on your cat’s normal toileting habits (do they prefer a litter tray or the garden?), how many cats are in your home, and how prepared your cat is for their routine to be altered. This is definitely not a case where you can poke a collection pot under Puss while they’re performing their traditional “litter tray substrate redistribution ritual” and expect to be thanked for it!
If your cat normally toilets in the garden, they will need to be confined to the house in order to use the litter tray (be prepared for complaints about this). In a multi-cat home, the cat needs to be separated from the other cats with their own litter tray, so you can be certain the urine is theirs.
Your cat’s normal substrate (recycled cardboard, clay pellets, sand etc.) is replaced by non-absorbent pellets. Your veterinary clinic can provide these for you as part of a urine collection kit, along with a pipette and sample pot.
Ensure the litter tray is completely clean to minimise contamination of the sample and place the non-absorbent pellets into the tray; the purpose of these is that they won’t soak up the urine and you can use the pipette to transfer it from the litter tray to the collection pot. I like to place an old towel outside the tray as a mat because cats can get their paws wet without absorbent litter substrate.
This change in routine and substrate can really upset some cats, so don’t be too surprised if they boycott their litter tray; some cats will “hang on” for 24 hours or more because the amenities are not to their liking. Sometimes you might need to prevent access to sinks and baths, if your cat decides these locations are preferable to their tray.
Success! I’ve managed to collect a sample from my pet! What do I do now?
Congratulations! Ensure the sample is in a container with a secure lid (you don’t want to lose your prize!) Write your pet’s full name and the date and time of collection on the pot and place it into a Ziploc bag.
Ideally urine needs to be tested within 30 minutes of being voided, and longer than a 12-hour delay can further alter the results, therefore, if possible, deliver it to your vet promptly (your vet should specify their preferred time frame). Otherwise, store the pot (in a bag or a second container) in the fridge, well away from food and drink, until delivery. Refrigeration slows, but does not prevent, the changes that occur as urine ages. Let your vet know if the sample has been refrigerated, for example if it was collected at night and you deliver it the following morning.
Whether you have a dog or a cat, remember basic hygiene when handling urine: wear disposable/rubber gloves, wash your hands, clean the litter tray before and after collecting a sample and don’t use a collection pot which normally holds food/drink unless you plan to dispose of it afterwards.
What if I’m unable to collect a urine sample at home?
If you are really unable to collect a sample, talk to your vet about possibly boarding your pet in the hospital until a sample is collected, however the stress from this can also prevent some pets from urinating and can be counter-productive.
In some cases, your vet might collect a sample directly from your pet’s bladder via cystocentesis. In this procedure, a needle is inserted directly into the bladder to collect a sterile urine sample (not contaminated by bacteria from the lower urinary tract or the environment). Depending on the pet, this can be performed either conscious or under sedation, and the wound closes on its own just as it does when a needle delivers an injection such as a routine vaccination.