Identify the Culprit
Before you start implementing changes to correct lawn burn, you need to make sure that your dog is actually the culprit. Several lawn diseases can look like lawn burn, causing small, characteristic brown patches. First, make sure that the brown spots are in areas where your dog urinates. Most dogs will have an area in the yard that they choose to use when they relieve themselves. Second, make sure that the grass in the brown spots is still firmly attached. Grab a handful and give it a steady pull. If the grass is firmly rooted, that points to lawn burn. If the whole bunch of grass pulls up, roots and all, then you may be dealing with a grub problem. And third, make sure that your own dog is the problem. If neighborhood dogs are coming into your yard and causing the problem, treating your own dog won't help.
Understand the Cause
Lawn burn is caused by the nitrogen in dog urine. Because dog urine is very high in nitrogen-containing waste products, when the dog urinates, it is similar to pouring a nitrogen-containing fertilizer on the lawn. A little nitrogen is good for the grass, but an excess causes damage. The prevention of lawn burn involves trying to reduce the amount of nitrogen coming into contact with the grass.
There are several factors that make lawn burn more likely to occur:
Solving the Problem
Successfully treating and preventing lawn burn often requires a multi-step approach.
One Final Note
All lawn burn products are not the same. Some oral lawn burn products contain the ingredient methionine, an amino acid that, at higher doses, can lower the urine pH, acidifying the urine. If the pH of the urine becomes too acidic, urinary tract problems, such as urine crystals and certain types of bladder stones, may result. We recommend choosing products that do not change the urine pH. Effective lawn burn products often contain the ingredient Yucca schidigera, which helps bind the nitrogen in the urine, so that less is excreted onto the grass. Finally, although lawn burn products can be very helpful, you may still get the best result by using a multi-faceted approach- for example more frequent watering in years when there is less rain.
References and Further Reading
Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 4th edition. Walsworth Publishing Company. Marceline, MO; 2000.
Lewis, L; Morris, M; Hand, M; Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 3rd edition. Mark Morris Associates. Topeka, KS; 1987.