Is your dog’s urine ruining your lawn?
Maybe you’ve started to notice brown patches of grass popping up in areas where your dog usually does his business. Known as lawn burn, this damage is most likely caused by your dog’s urine.
Most homeowners can appreciate both the aesthetic and practical pleasures that come with having an immaculate lawn. It provides the perfect area for picnics, barbecues, parties, and more. But all of this can be quickly impeded by lawn burn.
Let’s take a look at what is turning your dog’s urine into a flamethrower (and what you can safely do about it).
2 Main Factors That Cause Lawn Burn
Nitrogen, solute concentration, and pH each play a role in causing lawn burn.
Interestingly enough, normal, healthy levels of nitrogen, solute concentration, and pH are usually what causes lawn burn, rather than abnormal or unhealthy levels. This is why tinkering with these levels can ultimately end up harming your dog.
1. Nitrogen Levels
Lawn burn is often caused by high levels of nitrogen found in your dog’s urine.
Nitrogen is a substance that is excreted from the kidneys as waste after the body finishes breaking down protein. Therefore, the more protein your dog ingests, the more nitrogen waste products are released into its urine.
Lawn burn also occurs if your dog tends to relieve himself in the same spot everyday.
Sometimes, you will even see a ring of healthy grass surrounding the burned spot.
Ironically, the diluted nitrogen found on the edges of the spot acts as an effective fertilizer for the grass while the high concentrations of nitrogen will kill the grass. Sometimes, too much of a good thing can end up being harmful rather than helpful.
2. Solute Concentration and pH levels
Concentrated urine and unbalanced pH levels also contribute to grass staining. Concentrated urine contains a higher volume of solutes than diluted urine.
When released, these solutes end up damaging your grass. The normal pH level for a dog’s urine is between 6 and 6.5. Diets that are extremely high in protein can lead to a lower urine pH, making it more acidic.
While slightly acidic urine can be good for your grass, it can also make your dog more susceptible to developing struvite crystals, or bladder stones.
Certain bacterial infections can raise the pH level, making it more basic. The highly basic dog urine may then alter the health of your lawn.
However, the pH level is not what ultimately causes lawn burn. It may contribute to it, but it is the high nitrogen levels in your dog’s urine that are the main culprit.
Dog Food to Stop Lawn Burn?
Changing your dog’s diet will likely be ineffective in preventing grass burn.
There aren’t any magical foods or supplements on the market that will eliminate the nitrogen in your dog’s urine.
Dietary supplements claiming to be “all-natural” remedies with the ability to bind with the nitrogen in your dog’s urine often contain harmful chemicals.
These additives could lead to urinary tract issues, kidney disease, liver disease, or metabolic issues.
Quality of Protein in Your Dog Food
That being said, the quality of the protein in your dog food’s ingredients may impact the extent to which its urine affects your lawn.
Low quality protein is more difficult to digest. As a result, more nitrogen may be dumped into the urine as waste.
Make sure that the protein in your dog food is primarily coming from a meat source, such as chicken or beef. Protein made from indigestible substances such as feathers or hooves is not only ineffective in providing adequate nutrition for your dog, but it can even cause it to grow sick and weak.
Here is a list of acceptable protein sources for your dog:
- Egg whites
The best food for your dog is always one that is high in quality protein, moderate in carbohydrates and fat, and contains a sufficient amount of vitamins and nutrients to keep them healthy and happy.
A dog food provider in Canada is making waves in the dog food industry for creating fresh dog food recipes using all human-grade ingredients. They’re named Kabo and their foods are nutritionally complete for dogs of all types and ages. Check out their recipes for an example of what we consider quality food.
If you aren’t sure if your current dog food brand is providing sufficient nutrition to your dog, consult with your veterinarian for food recommendations based on its unique exercise needs and breed standards.
Why a Change in Diet Will Not Always Help Prevent Lawn Burn
While you can feed your dog a low protein, high carbohydrate diet in an effort to raise pH levels in its urine, this may not be good for its overall health.
Active and young dogs need a sufficient amount of protein to keep their energy levels high.
Plus, if you feed your dog a cereal-based diet, its urine will become too basic and will burn the grass. As you can see, ensuring that your dog is fed enough protein, but not too much protein, while also ensuring its pH levels are normal is quite the balancing act.
While it is understandable that you want to keep your lawn fresh and free of damage, we do not recommend attempting to do so by feeding your dog a risky diet.
Risks from Using Supplements or Dietary Aids
Some owners, whether through word-of-mouth or on internet forums, claim that these supplements or dietary changes really do work.
Friendly reminder: take these claims with a grain of salt!
A supplement that doesn’t affect one dog’s overall health might not have the same impact on another dog.
And just because there weren’t immediate negative effects on their dog’s health, that doesn’t mean that the supplements can’t cause problems further down the road.
Always consult your veterinarian if you aren’t sure whether a specific food or brand is harmful for your dog.
Behavioral Techniques to Prevent Lawn Burn
Many owners elect to either train their dogs to go to the bathroom on command or train them to relieve themselves in a designated area to prevent lawn burn.
Both techniques require plenty of patience and treats for success. However, in the long run, it will benefit both your canine friend and your grass!
1. Training to Use a Designated Area
If you have an area on your property that remains mostly out of sight or is not typically used, then you can train your dog to use it as his designated “restroom”.
Most people pick areas containing mulch or soil, though some elect to use gravel or cement.
Some people even create their own rest areas by removing grass and vegetation from a small section on their lawn before replacing it with sand and mulch. It may be helpful to create a sort of “barrier”, such as a fence or a pot, to mark the spot.
Whenever you take your dog out, lead him straight to the designated rest area.
To start, take him out on a leash so he doesn’t wander off. After he finishes peeing, reward him with praise and a treat. As you repeat this process, you can gradually take your dog off the leash whenever you bring him out.
2. Training to Pee on Command
To train your dog to pee on command, you first need to choose a command word. It can be something as simple as “go pee”:
- With a leash, direct your dog to his newly designated “restroom”.
- When you are ready, you can issue the command.
- (You will probably have to wait a bit before he relieves himself.)
- When he does, you can say “yes” and give him a treat!
- If he doesn’t end up going to the bathroom, you can take him back inside.
- Repeat this process for several days.
- Ditch the leash after the habit has been learned.
Effective Lawn Burn Repair Treatments
Instead of blowing up your dog’s diet, it can be safer and more effective to treat the lawn itself.
1. Spot-Rinse with Water
One simple method for diluting the nitrogen excreted from your dog’s urine is to rinse the grass with water after your dog is finished relieving himself.
You must to do this every time you take your dog out.
If you are willing to shell out the extra money, consider purchasing a sprinkler to evenly water both the affected and unaffected areas of your lawn.
This way, leaching fertilizer can be spread across the whole yard.
3. Commercial Formulas
You can also invest in specialized formulas designed to remove grass stains. However, you will likely have to remove the dead grass from the area before applying it.
While you treat your grass, make sure you keep your dog away from the growing area. Until the grass seeds are finished germinating and growing, you should fence it off from other people and dogs.
Gypsum, a mineral commonly used as a lawn care product, is typically non-lethal for dogs. That being said, it can be irritating to your dog’s eyes, nose, and throat if it exposed to the substance for an extended period of time.
Gypsum sprayed from an air can is usually the culprit behind respiratory irritation in dogs. To avoid harming and or irritating your dog’s sinuses, consider using gypsum in its granular, flake, or powder form.
Some people believe that feeding your dog tomato sauce, juice, or even apple cider vinegar will alter the acidity of its urine. While it may increase your dog’s water intake, thereby diluting the urine, you are putting your dog at risk of obtaining urinary tract diseases, bladder infections, crystals, and bladder stones.
Vitamin C is as efficient at neutralizing dog urine at tomato sauce is. In other words, it doesn’t really work. What it can do, however, is help fend off bladder infections and struvite stones in dogs thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. Before adding a vitamin C supplement to your dog’s diet, you should consult with your veterinarian for a recommended dosage. Vitamin C can cause diarrhea, so it will be important to start with small doses before gradually increasing them.
Yes, but it’s probably not for the reason you think! Some owners swear that their female dogs cause more lawn burn than their male counterparts. However, female dog urine and male urine share similar compositions, especially if the dogs have been spayed or neutered. But the owners who claim that they find more lawn burn stains with their female dogs than their males aren’t going crazy. Because of the manner in which female canines relieve themselves, usually by squatting and urinating in one place, they tend to do more damage to the grass than males who lift their legs and “mark” different objects in multiple locations.
No. The type of breed has no influence over how large or devastating a lawn burn becomes. While some dogs, on an individual basis, may have a higher pH level or nitrogen content, this stems from their diet, rather than the type of breed that they are.
No products found. are marketed as a “natural solution” to lawn burn caused by dog urine. They are said to filter out impurities from water such as tin, ammonia, and nitrates. According to the company website, these impurities are passed through urine and cause lawn burn when they come in contact with grass. To use them, you simply rinse the rocks before placing them in your dog’s water bowl.
But does this technique actually work? And is it even safe?
According to customer reviews, they work. However, there is no scientific evidence that supports the authenticity of the company’s claims. So, at worst, the rocks don’t end up working and you just wasted your money on some rocks that you may or may not have been able to dig up for yourself.