Dealing with Lawn Burnout Spots from Dog Urine

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 03 Aug, 2010

Are you frustrated with those burned out, yellow and brown spots in your yard where your dog does his business? Want to know what causes it and how you can prevent it? Read on for some ideas that just might help.

What Causes the Brown Patches?

Dog urine contains a variety of nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen waste products come from the breakdown of protein in the body. Excess nitrogen is removed from the animal's body via the kidneys, as a waste product, and when a dog urinates, the nitrogen is applied to the lawn in a large, concentrated dose. This is all part of the normal bodily process, but not great for your grass. The right amounts of nitrogen can be beneficial to your lawn (the main ingredient in lawn fertilizers is nitrogen), but too much undiluted nitrogen can burn the grass.

One of the many myths surrounding this topic is that female dog urine is more acidic than male's and therefore more damaging. In actuality, the reason it seems that a female's urine is more damaging is because female dogs squat to urinate, producing large volume puddles, as opposed to the leg lifting "marking" of male dogs. Leg lifting in males usually begins around a year of age. Fragile plants, bushes or flowers that become marking posts for male dogs may also die in time with the repeated nitrogen overload.

The larger the dog, the more urination, and the greater the damage.

Dietary Modifications

Always check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet. There are a lot of theories involving dietary modifications and home remedies to reduce the concentration of nitrogen in the urine, many of which are possibly unhealthy or dangerous for your pet. Altering the pH of your dog's diet, adding acidifying agents such as Vitamin C or fruit juices, alkalinizing agents such as baking soda or potassium citrate, have not been proven to have any affect on the nitrogen level in a dog's urine, and can cause other issues such as bladder stones or kidney problems.

One successful approach seems to be increasing the amount of liquids in the diet, which dilutes the urine and nitrogen concentration. You can moisten dry food with water, or feed a canned food. And always be sure she has plenty of water to drink.

Also consider the type of dog food you are feeding. Nitrogen waste products in the body are a result of protein breakdown. The higher protein diets are going to result in more nitrogen in the urine. Most commercial dog foods purchased at supermarkets contain high levels of protein. The average family dog doesn't have the activity levels to require such high amounts of protein. The quality of the protein is important too, as some proteins are more highly digestible. Premium and super premium dog foods contain higher quality, more digestible levels of proteins, and result in less waste product, another reason to feed your dog the highest quality food.

Minimize the Damage

One effective method to minimize lawn damage is to soak the area with water within 8 hours after urination. Use a garden hose or simply carry out a watering can or jug with you. The water will dilute the nitrogen and prevent the damage.

You could designate an area of your yard for your pet to eliminate and train her to use that area only. It could just be an out of sight area or corner of the yard, or create a special area consisting of gravel or mulch with a "marking post" such as a boulder, bird bath, or garden ornament. You can purchase a "pee post" with special pheromones that will attract the dog to where the post is placed, or collect some of the dog's urine and feces and place in the spot until they catch on. You'll need to spend time training your dog initially to use their new spot, but it can be well worth the effort in the end.

You can spinkle lime fertilizer onto the grass where your dog urinates. Lime neutralizes the soil's pH and prevents grass damage. Another option is to use gypsum pellets which expand in water to break up the soil.

There are commercial products you can purchase at most pet stores or online to help deal with the problem, but you might want to try some of these suggestions first.

Small areas of brown grass will often regenerate themselves in time. Other areas may need re-seeding or sodding. The most resistent grasses seem to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues. The most sensitive tend to be Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda.

By understanding the causes of lawn burn, and utilizing some of these suggestions, you can own a dog and maintain a beautiful lawn at the same time.

Sources:;; Office for Science and Society;;;

Originally Compiled by Kathy McRoberts  on Aug. 5, 2010

Cincinnati Dog Knowledge Center

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