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One fear that many people have about raw feeding is not being able to meet their dogs' nutritional needs. This is where blood tests (which can be expensive) and urine tests (which we can do at home) come in. I received urine test kits (formulated for pets) for each of my dogs. This is the first time I've tested my dogs and I was surprised by the results and inspired to dig a little deeper.
Importance of a Urinalysis for Dogs
Although blood tests provide a complete view of how our dogs are doing, they can be expensive when raising four big dogs. An alternative is a urine test, which can give you an idea of what's going on with your dog and a heads up if more testing is needed.
The Color of Dog's Urine
A urinalysis will provide a lot of information on the state of your dog's health starting with the color of your dog's urine. The ideal color is a light yellow, which means your dog is well hydrated (just like us humans). A darker yellow may indicate a bit of dehydration. This was the case with our dogs. They receive plenty of water, but it's been hot lately so I'm now going to add more water to their meals to make sure they stay hydrated.
The yellow urine can also be the result of a health issue. When Scout had a fever of unknown origin, his urine was darker and they thought it was due to a urinary tract infection, but he tested negative. All of our dogs' urine is the same color – yellow, but not dark yellow, so I didn't worry when I was collecting samples.
If a dog's urine is a dark yellow or has a tinge of orange or pink, I think you should contact your vet to discuss more testing. Better safe than sorry.
What a Urinalysis Reveals About Your Dog
A urinalysis also shows the veterinarian the health of your dog's urinary tract, kidneys, and liver, while also checking glucose regulation.
- High glucose levels can be an indication of diabetes.
- High protein levels can be an indication of kidney failure.
- A urinalysis can also reveal the possibility of kidney stones, urinary tract stones, or a urinary tract infection.
All of these can be expensive to treat; however when health issues are caught early, we have a better chance of getting our dogs back on a healthier path.
CLICK to learn more about dogs and their urine from Dr. Karen Becker.
Collecting Urine Samples in a Multi-Dog Home
It's best to collect a sample from the dog's first urine for the day. For our pack, that means I'm standing outside at 5 am on a Saturday morning with a Rubbermaid container (labeled with a dog's name) and a ladle (picked up in the kitchen utensils section of the store).
I take each dog outside one at a time, stay close (but not too close), ready to ease the ladle into their pee stream to collect a sample. You don't need much; a couple tablespoons will be fine, but if you're handy with a ladle and have good timing, you'll get plenty.
I thought it would be easier to collect urine from the boys, but it just depends on the dogs. The girls squat down just at the right level for me to get the ladle in there without touching (or startling) them – although I did freak Sydney out and it took three times to get her to go potty. Scout does a low leg left, which is perfect. Rodrigo, on the other hand, lifts his leg high while standing as close to the object of his marking as possible. It's not easy to get the ladle situation to collect urine – but I manage.
I wash the ladle between uses. Since this is the dog's morning pee – it's important to have everything organized so that I'm running like a well-oiled machine – getting each dog in and out.
Tools for Collecting Dog Urine
- Kitchen Ladle – stainless steel is best, but plastic will do; be sure to wash it between uses.
- Rubbermaid Container – one of the smaller ones.
- Sharpie – to label each container.
- Urine Testing Kit for Dogs
- Timer – I used a stopwatch app on my phone
- Alarm Clock (make time to take the first pee of the day)
- Patience (your dog may not be keen about pee testing day)
The CheckUp At Home Wellness Test for Dogs
Searching online, I read that some vets charge up to $200 per dog for a urinalysis. I gather that this test is beyond sticking a stick in urine; at least I hope so. With four dogs, I'm not prepared to pay nearly $1000; fortunately, there are alternatives.
The CheckUp at Home Wellness Test for Dogs is an easy to administer urine test that is more affordable and convenient than taking all of our dogs to the vet. It does come with something to collect the urine, but I prefer to use a ladle. I tested all of our dogs the weekend of May 7th and each tested positive for high protein, because of an error on my part.
I tested all of our dogs the weekend of May 7th and each tested positive for high protein, because of an error on my part.
You may think that it makes sense that raw fed dogs would test high in protein; but this isn't about their diet, it's about their kidney's ability to process the protein. If it's having trouble, this will be revealed in a high protein on a urinalysis. If the high protein is due to diet, then it can be corrected through diet. If it's due to a health issue, we'll need to work with a veterinarian on a solution.
Using the CheckUp At Home Wellness Test
- Collect the morning urine from your dog.
- Dip the testing strip that comes in the kit into the urine for 2 seconds, shake off.
- At 30 seconds, check the first three options (glucose, protein, urinary tract).
- At 60 seconds, check the last option (blood in urine).
Keep in mind that the strip continually absorbs urine, so when you're comparing the 60-second color (blood in urine), the first three colors may have switched from “negative” to “positive.” If you have concerns, you can always have a follow-up test with your veterinarian.
Or you can take the CheckUp test again (two strips are provided per each box).
The only disappointments I had with the CheckUp system were:
1 – There wasn't any information on the site to help me understand the results of the testing kit. The site does have a blog and although I'm a blogger, it didn't occur to me to go to the blog to search for more information about the kit. I expected there to be information on the pages with the product and instructions on use.
2 – The instructions weren't clear to me. There were images and instructions below the image; I focused on reading the instructions and missed a very important step – you only dip the testing strip in the urine for 2 seconds. Because I let the strip sit in the urine for 30 seconds and 60 seconds, I received false positives. What I was supposed to do was hold it in for 2 seconds, then at 30 seconds compare the first three tests, and at 60 seconds, compare the last row. I realized my error when I used the Solid Gold testing strip (mentioned below).
The site is currently being updated to be more user-friendly. I spent my time reading articles by Dr. Karen Becker to better understand canine urine health.
Solid Gold pH Test Strips for Dogs
I invested in a pack of 50 pH test strips by Solid Gold to perform a backup test. There are tons of pH test strips available; since this is my first rodeo, I decided to stick with a brand that was for pets. I followed the same steps as I did with the CheckUp Wellness Kit.
Dogs are carnivores, which leads their urine's pH to fall in the acidic range. When dogs eat a diet that is high in grain, this can lead to bladder health issues and urinary crystals and stones.
CLICK to learn more about a canine urine pH levels by Dr. Karen Becker.
I read that our raw fed dogs' urine would fall into the 6.0 to 6.5 range – this was correct for each of our dogs. I allowed Zoey's test to sit for a couple extra seconds and the results increased to 7.0, which shows the importance of following the two-second rule.
CLICK HERE to order Solid Gold pH Urine Testing Strips
Steps Following a Dog's Urine Test
Our dogs are healthy. I made a note in my calendar of the days that I tested the dogs (May 7th and May 14th) and the results. When the dogs all tested positive for high protein, I contacted the vet about next steps and that's when I learned about other strip tests.
I will receive another set of CheckUp tests in a week and will retest the dogs to confirm the user error in the first set. Going forward, since CheckUp tests only cost $15, I'll be checking our dogs quarterly: $15 x 4 dogs = $60.
According to my vet, the test has to be done on the first urine of the day AND he has to receive it when it's less than 12 hours old. Keep this in mind when testing your dogs. I wouldn't suggest doing it on a Saturday unless your vet has Saturday hours.
CLICK HERE to order a CheckUp At Home Wellness Test for your dog.