How to Collect a Urine Sample
On numerous occasions, our clients may call with concerns about their pets’
urination. We may ask owners to collect a urine sample as the first step in
identifying a potential problem. We have specifically designed catch trays and
containers that we can dispense to you. Obviously, if your pet is straining and
cannot pass any urine at all, this may be a medical emergency and he or she
should be examined ASAP! This is especially true of the male cat or dog.
There are many important reasons for needing to examine a dog or
cat’s urine sample, including detecting bladder infections, diabetes, and many
other health problems. Usually the urine sample will be analyzed for
concentration, red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, crystal content,
and sugar. Additional tests, such as bacterial culture and sensitivity, can be
performed as needed.
The way a urine sample is collected determines how it can be used;
therefore, a certain collection method may be requested by your veterinarian.
The simplest method is by free catch. A free-catch sample is caught midstream
while the dog or cat is urinating. This type of sample is commonly acquired at
home and then brought to the veterinary hospital. Other methods include
cystocentesis and catheterization. During cystocentesis, a sterile needle is
introduced painlessly through the abdominal wall and into the bladder, like an
amniocentesis during pregnancy, and urine is drawn out with a syringe. With
catheterization, a sterile tube (catheter) is passed into the bladder through
the urethra, and the urine is allowed to drip out.
The purpose of urine collection is to obtain a clean sample and provide it
promptly to the veterinarian for testing.
If possible, it is ideal to collect the sample from the first
urination of the day. This urine has been stored in the bladder overnight and
will contain more cells for examination.
What you will need:
- Urine storage cup
- Urine collection cup
- Medical examination-type latex gloves
You may have been provided with a sterile cup for urine sample storage by
your veterinarian. It is not necessarily that container you will use to collect
the sample. Instead, it may be a lot easier to use a shallow, wide-mouthed,
clean dish such as a margarine dish or an aluminum foil pie plate for
collection, and then pour the sample into the cup for storage. It is also not
necessary to fill the cup.
With urine samples, fresher is better. It is ideal to have a sample
submitted to the veterinarian within 1-2 hours of collection, although up to 24
hours may still be useful for some tests. Contact your veterinary hospital to
determine when to drop off your pet’s sample.
If you can’t bring in a sample immediately after collection, then it
is best to refrigerate it. For hygienic reasons, it is best to seal the
watertight collection cup inside a ziplock bag for extra protection from
spillage. Important note: refrigerating a sample is acceptable, but freezing a
sample is not, because freezing destroys much of the material being examined in
Obtaining the Urnine Sample
DOGS: It will work best if you are alongside your dog, so a
leash-walk or staying within a few feet (1 meter) of the dog is advised. It may
take two people to accomplish collection of a clean sample—one person to walk
the dog and one person to collect. If a dog is used to walking alone, it may
just take some extra time for him/her to eliminate in front of you, and a longer
walk is appropriate then.
- Put on the latex gloves.
- Hold the container by the edges. When the dog starts to urinate, allow a small
amount of urine to flow first, and then after 2-3 seconds catch the stream of
urine with your container.
- Female dogs will often squat close to the ground. A shallow, wide container such
as an aluminum pie plate is best for sliding under a squatting dog. For very
small female dogs, the clearance is minimal, and a homemade aluminum foil tray
may be most effective. Some dogs are startled by the appearance of a tray under
them while they are urinating, but most are not bothered or become accustomed to
it after a few attempts. The pie plate or tray is held on the ground with one
hand (don’t let go of it) and the leash in the other hand while the dog
completes urinating and gets up to walk away. Letting go of the plate/tray under
the dog risks it being flicked up when the dog stands up, with urine spillage
causing a mess and no sample.
- Male dogs tend to urinate without squatting, which makes urine collection
easier. However, be aware that the slightest breeze can send this stream in an
unexpected direction. Additionally, some dogs use their hind legs to scratch the
dirt around after urinating. Protect yourself and your sample from spilling
should this occur.
- With males or females, if you have used an alternative to the urine cup provided
to you by your veterinary hospital for collection, transfer the sample into this
cup, and seal it completely with the lid. If a cup was not provided to you, then
transfer the sample into a clean, watertight container, and seal it with a lid.
Deliver this sample to your veterinary hospital as soon as possible. If you are
not leaving immediately, then refrigerate the sample until you leave.
CATS: Collection of a free-catch sample from a cat at home begins
with cleaning and emptying the litterbox, without refilling it. Replace the
normal litter with dust-free silica “litter pearls,” which are clear plastic
beads. Scatter the bottom of the pan with 1-2 cups (125-250 mL) of the beads.
This provides something for the cat to push around in the box but prevents
absorption of the urine. Pour whatever urine has not been absorbed into a
storage container. Some cats are very particular and will not tolerate a change
in litter. With these cats, it may be easiest to have the veterinarian collect a
sample via cystocentesis (see above).
After dropping the sample off at the veterinary hospital, you can
expect most results to be available in 36 hours or less; exceptions are
bacterial culture and specific urinary hormone assays, which require several
Frequently Asked Questions
I collected a sample, but it has hair/leaves/snow in it. Is
that a problem?
In general, free-catch samples must be free from debris or
contamination from the environment. It is a matter of degree, so if you are
concerned about contamination of the sample, be sure to describe the nature of
the contamination to the veterinary technician when you drop the sample off.
How am I supposed to keep my pet from urinating so I can try
to collect a sample at home?
Attempt to collect a sample first thing in the morning. With dogs,
it may be helpful to keep them inside overnight, and plan to collect urine
during an on-leash walk in the morning. With cats, you can attempt to collect
urine at home by changing the litter as described above. Alternatively, restrict
your cat from using a litterbox, and plan to take him to the veterinary hospital
in the morning for cystocentesis. Do not put a towel in the carrier or anything
else your cat could consider as a substrate for urinating on. Finally, if your
cat’s bladder is empty in the morning or if your cat urinates while on the way
to the hospital, you may have to leave your cat at the hospital for several
hours to wait for his bladder to fill again so the staff can acquire a sample
My pet is leaking urine all the time. What do I do?
In such circumstances, there is often very little urine stored in
the bladder so a pet cannot void a normal volume of urine at one time. This
makes collection at home difficult, and your speed at catching the urine can
help. Still, even with the best of efforts, the volumes of urine may be so small
as to be impossible to collect. In this instance, collecting a sample off the
floor may be the only means of collection. This is most easily done in the
veterinary hospital where syringes are available to collect samples in this way.
A urine sample that is collected off the floor is imperfect, but it can still
yield important information.
The urine sample is mixed with feces/stool as well. Is that
Unfortunately, yes, because urine is much cleaner than feces. Fecal
contamination can interfere with results. If there is obvious mixing of urine
and feces in a litterbox, for example, then you should discard that sample and
I have several cats. How do I make sure I have a sample from
one cat in particular?
If the cat in question uses only one litterbox, and no other cats
use that litterbox, the process described above (with plastic litter beads) can
be carried out. Otherwise, the urine sample should be drawn from your cat at the
veterinary hospital via cystocentesis (see above).
We thank Etienne Côté, DVM, for the above article first published as a client education sheet in Dr. Côtés excellent text Clinical Veterinary Advisor, 2nd Ed. 2011. We thank Elsevier Inc. for permission to reproduce this article.