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Solutions for Urine Burns on Lawns

By Drs. Foster & Smith Veterinary Staff

Lawn with Urine Burns If you have a dog and a lawn then you've probably experienced the unsightly yellow spots caused from the urine killing the grass in your yard. These problems are more common in households with large female dogs with well-kept lawns. However they can show up even in lawns like mine where the weeds outnumber the grass and the neighbors sympathetically drop off "care packages" containing fertilizer and weed killer.

There are lots of old "theories" circulating about just what in the urine causes the killing off of your prized Bermuda grass. The most common of these misguided opinions is that the urine is acidic and 'burns' the grass. As a result, a host of home remedies have arisen including adding baking soda, tomato juice, or vitamin C to the diet. While these products rarely work once in a while, they do help but they work because they make the dog thirstier and they then drink more water and dilute the urine. The real culprit in urine burns is nitrogen.

Because dogs are carnivores and eat a high level of protein in their diet, they break the protein down and excrete it as nitrogen in the urine. The result is a killing of the grass from an overload of nitrogen. You will get the same kind of burn if you put a concentrated handful of fertilizer in one spot. These urine burns will often have a characteristic green ring around the outside edge where the urine was dilute enough to actually work as a fertilizer. This characteristic ring can also help distinguish urine burns from a grub infestation that will also create similarly looking brown spots.

There are a few things that make urine burns more prevalent:

  • Urine burns tend to be worse with female dogs because they squat and deposit their urine in one place.
     
  • They also are worse in large dogs because they deposit a larger quantity of urine.
     
  • They are worse on yards that are already fertilized regularly.
     
  • Grasses like bluegrass or Bermuda grass are much more sensitive to nitrogen than rye or fescue.
     
  • And finally, they are always worse when your neighbor's dog goes on your yard. The science behind this last one is shaky but everyone in my neighborhood swears it's true about my dog.

So now that we are seeing spots what do we do to get rid of them?
Home remedies that help some of the time include diluting the urine through increasing water consumption. Adding water to the food or a few dashes of garlic salt may help. Canned food has a lot more water in it but it also has its drawbacks. Feeding a high quality diet that is lower in protein may also help. Senior or low calorie foods often provide adequate nutrition and are lower in protein. Watering the yard daily helps in some cases but it may not be enough. Backing off the fertilizer on your yard may help as well. The lawn will suffer a little but guys like me would appreciate it if your lawn didn't look so good. And finally, you might try planting some tougher species like rye or fescue.

We also have several oral products that you can add to your dog's diet. Green-UM is a natural blend of amino acids and herbs that binds up free nitrogen in the urine and neutralizes it. G-Whiz is a similar product that can be put directly in the dog's food or water. Our Drs. Foster & Smith Lawn Guard Tablets or Treats combine nutritional ingredients like Biotin with urine-neutralizing ingredients like di-Methionine. All of these products work pretty well when combined with some of the remedies listed above. Another product that works well is Dogonit. This product is organic and is sprayed on the urine spot and will neutralize some of the nitrogen allowing new grass to grow back more quickly.

Because these products contain different formulations and ingredients, one may work better on your particular pet than another. If you're not satisfied with the results of one, you may want to consider one of the other alternatives. Regardless of your type of grass or dog, by following some of these basic guidelines you should be able to get a handle on these troublesome yellow spots in no time. As for the weeds, we'll save that for another time.
 

 



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