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Detecting Disorders of the Kidneys and Urinary Tract of Cats

By Scott D. Fitzgerald, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACPV, Professor, Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University ; Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, Professor of Medicine and Nutrition, The Acree Endowed Chair of Small Animal Research, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee ; Scott A. Brown, VMD, PhD, DACVIM, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professor and Head, Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia ; Sherry Lynn Sanderson, BS, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia ; Melissa S. Wallace, DVM, DACVIM, MedVet Medical and Cancer Center for Pets, Worthington, Ohio

Also see professional content regarding the urinary system.

Your veterinarian can diagnose many common problems involving the urinary system by taking a medical history, performing a physical examination, and performing tests on the cat’s blood and urine. The history might include information regarding changes in how much water your pet drinks, how often it urinates, how much urine it produces, how the urine looks, and how your pet behaves. Your veterinarian will also need information about what medications your pet has taken or is currently taking, your pet’s appetite and diet, changes in body weight, and previous illnesses or injuries.

There are many additional tests a veterinarian might sometimes perform in the case of a urinary disorder. These include blood tests, blood pressure tests, urinalysis (laboratory tests on your pet’s urine), x‑rays, contrast x-rays (tests in which a special dye is given to outline the urinary tract on the x-ray), ultrasonography, biopsies, and cystoscopy. Cystoscopy involves inserting a tube with a small camera at the tip into the urethra. This allows the veterinarian to see problems or changes in the urinary tract more clearly.

Urinalysis is a laboratory test that evaluates urine. It is one of the most important tools a veterinarian can use to diagnose urinary tract problems. Many tests are performed as part of a urinalysis. These include the specific gravity, concentration, appearance, and pH of the urine. Urinalysis also tests for the presence of certain chemicals or substances in the urine, such as sugar, ketones (a byproduct of the body’s processing of fat), bilirubin (a pigment produced when the liver processes waste), blood, and protein. The urine sediment is also examined under a microscope to look for things such as red blood cells, white blood cells, other cells, bacteria, and crystals.

If your veterinarian suspects your cat may have a urinary tract infection, a bacterial culture may be performed instead of, or in addition to, urinalysis. Cystocentesis, a procedure in which urine is removed directly from the bladder by use of a needle inserted through the abdomen, is the preferred way to collect urine for a bacterial culture.

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