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What Causes Increased Microscopic Sediment In My Dog 's Urine ?

What Causes Increased Microscopic Sediment In My Cat 's Urine ?

To see what normal blood and urine values are for your pet, go here

For an explanation of causes of most abnormal blood and urine tests go here

To see how tests are often grouped, go here

Ron Hines DVM PhD

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Microscopic Sediment In Your Pet's Urine

When you veterinarian asks you to bring a specimen of your cat or dog ’s urine for analysis (urinalysis); looking under the microscope for objects and things that shouldn’t be there is a very important part of the process. Generally, a drop of your pet’s urine is first centrifuged to drive all solids ("the pellet") to the bottom of the tube. Then that sediment is examined under a microscope. Normal urine is generally quite low in visible material and debris. Sometimes, that procedure is left to a central veterinary laboratory to perform.

It is normal for the pellet of material to contain some mucus and cells that have un lodged from the walls of your pet’s bladder (transitional epithelium).

However, when your veterinarian finds more than a very few red blood cells (RBCs), the presence of more than a few white blood cells (WBCs), increased debris and cells that have sloughed from the tubes and ducts that convey urine (casts) - then careful consideration is needed see if they might fit into the reasons you brought your pet to the veterinarian in the first place.

The same question comes up when bacteria , yeast or crystals are encountered.

How the specimen was collected and how long it sat before it was examined factor into how the finding are be interpreted.

If your veterinarian noticed that your pet’s urine was not crystal clear (was turbid), examination of the sediment for the cause of that turbidity becomes even more important.

Some Of The Abnormal Sediment That Might Be Found In Your Pet's Urine :

Bacteria and Yeast

Veterinarians always look closely for the presence of bacteria in your pet’s urine. None should be living there. Should there be significant numbers of bacteria, your pet has a urinary tract infection.

But there are two diagnostic problems - the time it takes for many folks to get a specimen to the vet’s office can allow contaminating bacteria and yeast to grow. Those were bacteria that contaminate the sample while it is collected.

To get around that, or when repeating a positive test, your vet might collect the urine sample using a needle (cystocentesis) or catheter.

Yeast organisms are generally unimportant contaminants, on rare occasions; pets on chemotherapy, long-term antibiotics or medications to suppress their immune system will have true yeast infections.

White Blood Cells

A few white blood cells (WBCs) in your dog or cat’s urine are not an abnormal finding. When more than a few are seen, your veterinarian will want to know why. The vet may look for bacteria again, or the vet might have you bring in another sample. A bacterial culture performed at a central veterinary laboratory might be indicated or your veterinarian might simply begin a course of antibiotics – particularly if your pet is an older, spayed, female dog – particularly a chubby one. They are more prone to UTIs. The longer urine stands at room temperature, the less likely WBCs (when they are present) can be identified.


A few crystals, found in the urine of your dog or cat , are generally unimportant if the pet is not showing discomfort when it urinates and other urinalysis tests are normal. Read more about urine crystals here.

Just because there are crystals does not guarantee that your pet will ever form urinary tract stones and not finding any crystals does not guarantee that stones of the same material won’t form. What the crystals are composed of often depends on whether your pet’s urine is acidic or basic (low or high pH). Finding crystals in your pets urine is more likely if it is dehydrated or when its urine is very concentrated. When seen in samples that have been stored over time, the presence of crystals means less.

Struvite (Magnesium ammonium phosphate) crystals are commonly seen in dog (particularly cocker spaniel, miniature schnauzer, bichon frise) and cat urine. They are only a problem in dogs when they are found in association with a urinary tract infection and inflammation and in cats when they are seen as part of feline urological syndrome (FUS). Read about struvite when it forms stones in dogs here.

Calcium oxalate crystals are also seen in the urine of healthy dogs and cats. But their continual presence can indicate a potential for calcium oxalate kidney and bladders stones. Read about that problem in dogs here and in cats here. The best action when they are found is to increase your pet’s daily water intake and manipulate its diet to give a less acidic urine pH. Calcium oxalate crystals can also be an indication of antifreeze poisoning. Common breeds that suffer from oxalate problem include Lhasa apsos, miniature poodles, miniature schnauzers and Yorkshire terriers.

Ammonium biurate crystals can suggest liver disease and liver circulation abnormalities (portosystemic shunts). But urate stones and crystals can often be found in the urine of healthy Dalmatian and English bulldogs.

Cystine crystals commonly occur in the urine of English bulldogs, dachshunds, Newfoundland, Scottish and Irish terriers and, occasionally, in cats.

Bilirubin crystals can occur when large amounts of blood have been destroyed or when a pet’s liver is failing.

Ammonium biurate crystals are occasionally seen in Dalmatians and English bulldogs. When seen in other breeds they may indicate liver problems as well.


Casts are accumulations of cell fragments and debris that built up in the small tubules that lead urine from its formation in the kidneys to its storage in your dog or cat’s bladder. (read more about them here) No more than a few at most should be present. When their numbers are increased, casts are an indication of damage within the kidney-to-bladder system. Depending on what portion of the tract they formed in and what they are composed of, they are called hyaline casts, cellular casts, granular casts, or waxy casts.

.................... DxMe