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How to deal with lawn burn caused by dog urine

What is lawn burn?

Believe it or not, there are one or two downsides of owning a dog and ‘lawn burn’ is certainly one of them. Lawn burn is patches of dead grass in your lawn caused by urine from your dog. Frustratingly, these burnt patches are often encircled by rich green grass that seems to grow at a faster rate than unaffected areas.

Lawn burn should not be confused with other diseases that look similar to lawn burn. A good test is firstly to confirm the burnt patches are where your dog does actually urinate and secondly, give a bunch of grass a tug and if it is still firmly anchored, then it is probably lawn burn. If all the grass and roots come out, then it may be some other problem such as grubs.

What causes lawn burn?

Urine in most animals and humans is high in ammonia (which is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen). Strangely, the nitrogen element of ammonia that is actually very good for plants and grass in the correct concentration, but the high concentrations in dogs urine is just too much for plants and grass to cope with. This explains why, the area directly affected dies and creates brown patches, but the area surrounding grows exceptionally fast as it has received a less concentrated dosage of nitrogen which acts as a good fertiliser.

Is it true that female dogs are worse than male dogs?

Yes, but not because there is a difference in the levels of ammonia in male and female dogs. The reason is that female dogs are more lightly to squat and empty their entire bladders in one small location. Where as the marking behaviour of male dogs see them more prone to deposit/sprinkle less urine in multiple locations and often this is on structures and trees etc rather than grass.

How can I prevent or repair lawn burn ?

  • Those dogs, usually young active dogs, fed a high protein diet are more likely to produce urine that causes lawn burn. Feed a high quality dog food that does not exceed the pet’s protein requirement. High quality foods have more digestible protein sources that are more completely utilised by the pet and create less nitrogenous waste in the urine. Research has shown that dried food in meals can cause more lawn burn simply because there is less fluid and therefore urine is more concentrated. A simple tip is to soak the food with warm water before serving.
  • Encouraging your dog to drink more, will help dilute the urine and decrease the risk of lawn burn. Small amounts of non-salted broth in the drinking water may help increase your dog’s water intake. Do NOT add salt to his food or water to induce drinking!
  • Feed your dog a supplement like Green-UM. These use natural plant extracts that bind to the ammonia making it less harmful to the lawn. You can also try Dog Rocks which lower the nitrate levels in your dogs drinking water. These are completely natural and really easy as you just leave a rock in the bottom of your dogs bowl.
  • Heavily fertilised grasses are already receiving near maximum levels of nitrogen. The small amount of nitrogen in dog urine may be all that is needed to put these lawns over the edge and cause lawn burn. Reduce the stress on your lawn by not over- or under-fertilizing and by providing frequent watering.
  • Lawns that are stressed are more susceptible to damage. Lawns that are suffering from drought, disease, or are newly sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn. Saturate the urinated spots with water. After the pet urinates, pour several cupfuls of water on the spot to dilute the urine.
  • Replant your yard with more urine-resistant grasses. The most resistant grasses tend to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues as well as clover. To re-seed the spots, simply rake vigorously to scrape the soil, sprinkle with seed, and keep well watered until it germinates. You can speed up the new growth or recovery of existing grass by sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area. These compounds neutralise the acidity of the affected area.
  • Train your dog to urinate in a location that is less visible. This approach is very effective for some owners that do not want to add supplements to their dogs’ diet. If you have a male dog, try using a Pee Post is a good idea to draw your dogs attention to urinate in a specific area.