How to Prevent Your Dog’s Urine From Killing Grass

by Drs. Foster and Smith on April 7, 2011

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dogs urine killing grass

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 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 dog 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.
  • Lawns that are stressed from drought or disease, or those that are recently sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn.

How to Prevent Your Dog’s Urine From Killing Grass

Home remedies that help some of the time include:

  • Diluting the urine through increasing water consumption. Adding water to the food or adding non-salted broth to the drinking water may help. Canned food has a lot more water in it but it also has its drawbacks.
  • Feeding a high quality diet may also help since the protein is more digestible and there are fewer waste products.
  • 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.
  • Try planting some tougher species like rye or fescue.
Asked about dogs causing brown spots in grass, Dr. Kathy Hillestad, DVM, quoted something she heard many times in veterinary school… “Dilution is the solution to pollution.”

Lawn Guard

Drs. Foster and Smith pet supplies has 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. Our Drs. Foster & Smith Lawn Guard Tablets or Treats® contain Yucca Schidigera which binds ammonia in the urine. Green-UM Xtra also contains helpful bacteria and green tea extracts that break down nitrogen wastes. All of these products work well when combined with some of the remedies listed above.

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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  • Heartworm: Keep Your Dog Protected – Remembering to give your cat or dog a heartworm pill is too important to forget. Prevention is easy…treatment is not. Learn about heartworm disease.

Dog Lawn Care


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete May 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

My mom really learned a lot from this article! I leave pee spots in the yard and dad is always wondering how the heck to make them stop. And, I win because I will get broth in my food! Score.

I’m @Pete829 and I follow @DFS_Ellen in Twitter!”

Aaron May 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Hadn’t realized there were products to help with the grass burning problem. Nice!

@astralbodies

Ruby Kelsey May 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Having 6 dogs in a small fenced yard this would come in very handy!

Ashlee May 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I live in a condo which has an association. We get hit with fines every year because of the peepee spots and nothing we have tried seems to help. All the vet told me was to incress water intake but that doesnt help. I would LOVE to give these a try!

Sherri O. May 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I would love to win a swivel bin and rake in the Memorial Day weekend giveaways!

Rachel Coutermarsh May 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Clean-up is not always easy or a job most want to do. This would make the job a lot easier. Thank You

Tu Nguyen May 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I have used these biscuits and they really do work.

Michelle S May 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

All animal owners need to clean up after their pets!

Rachele Nelson May 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Great information, now to get to work on the dog’s and my yard!!! Bout time I know how to keep it all green, thank you

michelle spayde May 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I need to show this to my Mom. Her 130 lb dog burned her brand new sod!

karrie branfort May 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I did not know about putting unsalted broth into their water good idea.

Bonnie May 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm

We use Lawn Guard, we always buy the biggest container you sell and start using it in Feb. We have been doing this for 4 years and have not had a lawn burn since!

Thank You DFS

Marva Gresham May 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Pooping and peeing are a NEVER ending chore and/or problem

Susan Abbott May 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I have a 100 pound dog, living in an apartment and the Clean Response Swivel Bin and Rake would be so helpful on her walks.

Debbie May 28, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Great looking pooper scooper, I could use a new one. And great article about keeping the lawn green

Sean May 28, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Our dog fenway loves to pee in the grass, he will only go on the grass, so after 2 years of dead spots on the nice part of the lawn, and bringing the grass back to life after every winter, we now have his own area of the side yard, “Fenways Park” (his name is Fenway Frank). Also we neeeed to clean up after him everytime because he likes to eat it and it makes him sick. He was the runt of the litter and has a very sensitive stomach, so a new pooper scoop would make his life o much better!!!

Joanne May 28, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Wow, didn’t know that there was a product to help out with the pee spots. The swivel bin and rake would be an extra plus to get rid of the “other” deposits! :-)

jennifer May 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Having 6 dogs, any help with clean up is much welcomed!

Dayna K. May 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I didn’t know this product even existed!

Elizabeth Jorgensen May 28, 2011 at 8:49 pm

i’d love to win this!

Katie S. May 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Great information!

Natalie Noble May 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I pick up the yard regularly by hand. I would really like to try a pooper scooper instead.

Martha May 29, 2011 at 12:54 am

This would be perfect in the yard – and at the park!

Katherine May 29, 2011 at 4:54 am

Thank you-my two male dogs go outside the yard perimeter,but my female….sigh…still goes where ever she wants! So having these ugly yellow spots dotting my lawn,now I know how to “cure” them. Another area was so badly damaged,we just ended up putting down pea stone..

Sandra May 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Boy, my husband would love this to pick up after our two dogs. We had to give up our pooper scooper service because we couldn’t afford it any more. This sure would make it much easier. And I must say that I don’t have any problem with dog urine killing our grass…never have.

Kevin @ Pet Lover May 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I’ll have to try this. Thanks!

Mike C May 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

Everyone’s favorite pastime: picking up our dog’s poop :)

This would be nice to have!

Ellen B. May 31, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Congratulations to Mike C. who is the winner of a Clean Response swivel bin and rake! Thank you to everyone who participated in our giveaway. Mike, I will contact you by email to get your shipping info.

Tiffany Weber July 18, 2011 at 10:37 am

Owning a pet business our yard is constantly under attack by our dogs and the neighbor dogs. I used to do the oral tabs which helped with our owned dog, but found that the grass would be ruined by new dogs since the pills didn’t take effect right away.

I went to our local natural pet store and they suggested a capful of RAW apple cider vinegar. We have virtually no issues with the lawn from dogs that are staying with us or living with us now – and it’s a cost affordable alternative!

Trudy Nielsen July 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I have spent the past two summers researching why my dog’s urine is turning my lawn yellow in the new city I moved into a few years ago, when that same dog did not burn the lawn from my former city. I began working with the PH level of the lawn and found out that my lawn has too much alkaline in it. So I began to change the PH balance to neutral by adding aluminum sulfate to the lawn. It takes time for the results (one year in my case) but now I have a beautiful green lawn. The PH tester kit was purchased at a local floral nursery for $5.00, and with some diligence on my part to keep re-testing until I got the soil to neutral, I have resolved the yellow spots for good!

Ellen B. July 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

@Trudy – Good information – thank you!!!

JeannieC September 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Has anyone tried “Lawn Guard” treats? If so, so they really work? Many of my Beagle owners have inquired regarding this sort of product and I have never tried it before.
Please let me know if you have any information for me.
J

RobinB September 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I would argue that the cause of urine burns in the lawn isn’t nitrogen, but *alkaline* urine. I’m a professional pet waste specialist, a “poop scooper”, and I have yet to see areas which have been burned by urine which are greener at the edges. For urine burns, I’ve found that acidifying the urine with vinegar in the water or adding a little tomato paste (an acidic food) to the food, among other things, can aid in eliminating them. Solid waste, however, is a different matter. It’s usually high in nitrogen…you can see the results of someone not picking up after their dog because as the waste breaks down, it burns a small area but boosts the grass within a few inches of the composting waste — upon careful examination, you can usually find some remains of the waste. This is the same reaction as accidentally dumping a small pile of fertilizer on the lawn and not getting it all picked up. Cheap food which is high in corn is much higher in nitrogen than high quality food, and when solid waste is left to decompose, will cause “green donuts” in the lawn. Picking up after your dog or having someone else do it is the best way to avoid these “donuts”.

Courtney January 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Thank you, this article has been very helpful. My neighbors in our apartment complex are getting fed up with my dog killing our grass and I have been searching for a solution. I tried the oral vitamin chews that you give you dog and warn anyone against trying them to fix the problem. They apparently work with the misconception of the pH of your dogs urine being the problem and gave my dog a horrible bladder infection. After much money gone to the vet, his pee was still killing the lawn. So we saw no effect whatsoever on the lawn and made our poor baby sick. It makes so much more sense to be proactive with your lawn choices and training your dog than it does to try to change his body chemistry.

Tina February 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I wanted to post a possible “correction” to the sentence that states “Because dogs are carnivores…” – i am 1 quarter away from graduating from an AVMA accreditedRegistered Veterinary Technician program, and we were told by a nutritionist from Hill’s that dogs are actually omnivores- Cats are the only “true” carnivores.

Holly Nash, DVM February 27, 2012 at 9:08 am

Dogs are in the order Carnivora. You are correct in that dogs are not obligate carnivores, like cats, who must have meat in their diet. Dogs will eat some vegetable material, but given their preference, they will in almost all cases eat meat. I’ve heard them termed “carnivores with omnivore tendencies”. In relation to the article, the important thing is that dogs do eat more protein than herbivores, and this is one of the reasons there is nitrogenous waste in their urine that causes the browning of grass.

pet portraits April 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Interesting article. i will try and apply some of your suggested solutions to our ‘brown patchy’, once lush and green, lawn! While we poo pick daily, I have yet to find a solution to stop dog urine staining or killing our lawn.

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