If you've ever witnessed brown spots of dead grass where you take your dog to pee, you likely have lawn burn. Lawn burn is damage to your lawn that's caused by your dog’s healthy urine. Matters can be complicated if your dog is suffering from a urinary disease.
Many homeowners like the aesthetic and functionality of a healthy lawn. It's often the backdrop to family picnics, relaxing summer days and for our furry friends, a place to roam and be free. But all of this can be quickly impeded by dead patches in your lush lawn.
Let’s take a look at what is turning your dog’s urine into a green grass killing nightmare, and what you can safely do about it.
2 Factors That Cause Lawn Burn
Nitrogen content, solute concentration, and pH each have a role in causing lawn burn.
Normal, healthy levels of nitrogen, solute concentration, and pH in your dog's urine are usually what causes lawn burn, rather than abnormal or unhealthy levels. Tinkering with these levels can ultimately end up harming your dog and doing little as a grass saver.
1. Nitrogen Levels in Urine
Lawn burn is typically 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 proteins. Therefore, the more protein your dog ingests, the higher concentrations of nitrogen can be released into its urine, causing grass burn.
Lawn burn also occurs if your dog tends to relieve themselves 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 fertilizer for the grass while the higher 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 burning. Concentrated urine contains higher volumes of solutes than diluted urine.
When released, these solutes end up damaging your grass. According to our in-house vet, Dr. Suzee, 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 may help keep your grass healthy, it can also make it easier for your dog to develop 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 to prevent yellow patches or urine burn will likely be ineffective.
There aren’t any wonder 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 excess nitrogen in your dog’s urine often contain harmful chemicals which may cause a health upset.
These additives could also 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 green lawn.
Low quality protein, such as those found in many store-brand dry dog foods, is much more difficult to digest. As a result, higher levels of nitrogen may be dumped into the urine as waste.
Make sure that the protein in your dog food is primarily coming from a quality 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 them to grow sick and weak. Which is exactly the reason Kabo refuses to use indigestible by-products or fillers in their recipes.
Here is a list of appropriate protein sources for your dog:
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.
This is where Kabo recipes come into play. Each fresh menu choice provides high-quality (human-grade!) proteins, carbohydrates, fibre and nutrients, providing optimally balanced food for dogs of all ages. Check out our recipes for what we consider quality food.
If you aren’t sure if your current dog food brand is providing sufficient nutrition to your dog, consider consulting with your veterinarian for meal recommendations. OR you can always get in touch with the Kabo Care Team of animal health experts, with any question you may have. Send us a note to email@example.com with any questions- we are here to help!
Why a Change in Diet Will Not Always Help Prevent Lawn Burn
While it is up to you if you feed your dog a low protein, high carbohydrate diet in an effort to raise pH levels in its urine- just know it may not be good for their overall health.
Active and young dogs need a sufficient amount of protein to keep their energy levels up.
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 supplements or dietary changes really do work. Please take these claims with a grain of salt!
A supplement that doesn't affect one dog's overall health may affect another dog differently.
And just because there weren’t immediate negative effects on their dog’s health, it is not known whether these supplements will cause problems further down the road.
If you are unsure about a specificdog supplementor food, always consult your veterinarian.
Training Techniques to Prevent Lawn Burn
Many owners elect to either train their dogs to go pee on command or train them to relieve themselves in a designated area to prevent wider lawn damage.
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”:
While on a leash, direct your dog to his newly designated relief area.
When you are ready, you can issue the command- 'go pee'.
(You will probably have to wait a bit before they relieve themselves)
When they do, use positive reinforcement, say “yes” and give them a treat whatever motivates your dog!
If they don't end up going to the bathroom, you can take them back inside.
Repeat the process for several days.
After the habit has been learned, you can ditch the leash!
Effective Lawn Burn Repair Treatments
Instead of altering your dog’s diet, it's safer and more effective to just treat the lawn itself.
1. Spot-Rinse with Water
The simplest 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 do this every time your dog urinates. In this case it's handy to have a hose or a watering can nearby to make the task easier.
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. Though this may not be practical for everyday usage, it works.
3. Commercial Grass Formulas
If you've been unable to spot rinse or use sprinklers, you can also invest in specialized grass seed mixtures designed to replace lawn burn. However, you will likely have to remove the old dead grass from the area before application.
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 people and dogs.