When a dog – especially a female – presents to the veterinarian with a history of incontinence and/or urine scalding, a thorough history will be taken from the owner and a thorough physical examination will be performed. The initial medical data base usually will include a urinalysis and routine blood work, including a complete blood count and a serum biochemistry profile. Unless the dog has a concurrent kidney infection, bladder infection or other urinary tract disease or disorder, the results of these preliminary tests should be fairly normal. The urine can be cultured to rule out bacterial infection, which unfortunately is not uncommon in dogs with ectopic ureters. When urine will be submitted to a laboratory for culture and to determine which antibiotics the particular bacterial colony is sensitive to, the sample is best taken by cystocentesis. This is a fairly non-invasive procedure in which the veterinarian inserts a sterile needle directly through the dog’s abdominal wall into the urinary bladder and extracts urine through an attached syringe. In this way, the sample has the least chance of being contaminated by external microorganisms or other contaminants.
More advanced testing may involve ultrasound examination to assess the anatomical integrity of urinary tract structures. This procedure, when performed by a person skilled in ultrasonography, is usually diagnostic of ectopic ureters. Contrast radiography can also be used, although it is more invasive. This involves inserting contrast media into the dog’s urinary tract and then taking films (radiographs; X-rays) as that material moves through and out of that tract. While standard radiographs without contrast media may be helpful, they are not as reliable as either ultrasound or contrast studies. Computed tomography (CT scan) may be available at some specialized veterinary clinics. CT scans are extremely accurate to diagnose this disorder. Other techniques, such as urethrocystoscopy, vaginal urethrography and excretory urography, can permit the veterinarian to visualize anatomical abnormalities and localize the terminal openings of ectopic ureters into the bladder, urethra, vagina or somewhere else.