Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Many of you may be seeing brown spots in your lawn recently!
And unfortunately, everyone always wants a quick fix these days!
The pet industry has definitely caught wind of this 'problem' and felt a need to satisfy the human ego for a perfect lawn.
Pills for this, medication for that. Spritz here, chemicals there.
In the case of dog urine & your lawn, there are many theories and so-called solutions surrounding this topic: so let's get right into it!
Myth vs Facts
Dog urine is acidic and causes 'burn spots.' Female dogs have more acidic urine than males.
Dog urine pH is actually fairly neutral.
'Burn spots' on the lawn are actually caused from a soil imbalance.
YEP!! Even the soil can experience imbalances!
Usually, I preach pretty hard about addressing the root cause in the pet.
But, in this cause- the root cause is in the soil!
Contrary to popular rumors; female dogs do not have more acidic urine: females just tend to concentrate their urine in one spot on the lawn, as opposed to a male who lifts his leg on the side of a bush or a tree, which splatters down to the grass.
Dog urine is naturally high in nitrogen. In fact, the higher the protein content in the diet, the higher the nitrogen levels will be in the urine.
When a dog consumes protein, the amino acids are broken down, which produces ammonia, which turns to urea, which is nitrogenous.
This is all just a normal, and natural metabolic process.
A common misconception is that dog urine pH is acidic, and kills the grass in the yard... When it actually has to do with the concentration nitrogen buildup in the soil.
And NO, this does not mean feed your dog a low protein diet, either!
When dogs urinate in one spot, the concentration in that area can cause nitrogen levels to rise and ultimately kill the grass.
If you do add chemicals or other fertilizer to your lawn that contain nitrogen, the levels can rise in the soil. Chemicals can also cause pH and mineral balance disruption. Both of these can contribute to unsightly brown spots!
Types of Grass:
Believe it or not, the type of grass can matter as well. Some are more robust and less prone to scorching and damage.
Many lawn fertilizers actually contain nitrogen! But, when nitrogen is extra concentrated in one area, it can scorch your grass and leave it for dead.
When diluted, or in low amounts, it does the opposite:
Ever wonder why lush green grass grows around all these "burn spots?" This is where the urine was less concentrated and acted as a fertilizer!
Supplements for my dog!?
A strict word of Caution:
Many supplements are available and said to aid in preventing urine burn spots on your lawn, and ultimately save your grass.
HOWEVER- Please be aware of something before you reach for these 'miracle' supplements...
First, I rarely hear that they work.
Second, is the danger in their mechanism of action:
These supplements are meant to alter your dog's body chemistry and/or urine pH.
This can cause MORE issues, and potentially a costly vet bill!
Supplements advertised to keep your lawn green often contain a blend of enzymes, vitamins, cranberry, amino acids, or even salt to alter the content of the urine. So, the ingredients in themselves are not 'bad' nor do they look scary at all.
But, the theory of adding salt to these supplements is that it will cause your pet to drink more, and therefore dilute their urine. Salt can be VERY hard on animals, and is actually quite toxic to them!
Pets can also have underlying kidney or heart issues, and when administered these supplements without a prior workup with your vet, it can cause potentially deadly side effects.
Some supplements contain what is called Methionine.
Methionine is a urine acidifier used to treat high pH and crystals in dogs.
This can be dangerous if your dog's urine pH is not high and you begin altering it.
Here's a precaution label on one very common brand of supplement used to 'save the grass':
*Remember, nitrogen and urea are the problem. Not the pH.*
Given over long periods, this supplement can over acidify the urine and also cause acidosis of the body.
Other side effects include kidney and liver damage, seizures and other CNS disorders.
Altering your dog's body chemistry for the sake of your lawn can be very dangerous to their health! I do not recommend using these supplements for any reason.
Recently, I have seen a product called Paramagnetic Rocks that used as an additive to water bowls to absorb impurities and nitrates, etc.
First of all, you should be filtering these impurities out of your dog's water to begin with.. and your entire family for that matter!
Second, there is very little nitrogen in water to begin with. The majority comes from the metabolism of protein by your dog. Do a home test; poor some tap water on your lawn... Does it kill the grass? The problem isn't the water.
Since this isn't a problem with my dog, how do I fix it?!
-Dilution is your best solution!
I mentioned above, that since dogs urinate in one spot at a time, this concentrates in the soil. As opposed to feeding high amounts of toxic salt to dilute your dog, consider diluting your lawn. Dumping some water where your pet just urinated will dilute the concentration of urea in the soil and can help tremendously!
-Add more moisture to your dog's diet! A simple solution for overall health. Many animals are not getting nearly the moisture they should from kibble, as opposed to the raw, fresh meat they would eat in the wild. Add water to their meals, soak their kibble, and consider getting them a drinking fountain! It's fun, enticing, and will encourage them to drink more fresh, filtered water!
-Use robust grasses such as perennial ryegrass, or fescue.
Pick the best kind HERE:
-Create an artificial turf, gravel, or mulched area and train your pet to go to the bathroom in that one spot, avoiding the grassy lawn all together.
-Rake the brown areas and water heavily to deplete the soil concentration of nitrogen.
-Lay a fresh layer of grass seed, with a good watering daily.
-If you fertilize your lawn. Use a low or nitrogen free fertilizer.
-Get your soil tested! Is the pH high? Too low? Does it lack crucial minerals? Many cities offer various testing for water and soil, just contact your local office! Some stores, such as Lowe's also offer testing, and can help you find the right solution for adjusting pH and minerals.
-Use a Natural fertilizer, depending on your soil test results:
2tbs Epsom salt/ 1gal water, dump on brown areas of lawn. I have also gone out in the rain to sprinkle some on problem areas. Epsom salt is also great for plants! throw some on the garden or on the flowers while you're at it! I prefer Dr. Teal's brand!
Gypsum, Lime, or Bone Meal:
This adjusts the pH of your lawn and adds minerals back into the soil.
Egg shells are another source of calcium that can be of great benefit to you lawn, and garden! Don't worry if your dog eats some of them, they are healthy! Simply sprinkle them across the brown areas of your lawn.
I hope this post has given you some insight into the Burn Spots & Urine Fiasco!
Heck, most of us automatically assume it's from the dog, and while our canine pals definitely play a roll in the problem, it isn't solely their fault. After all, the nitrogen excretion is a normal process of metabolism, and we must not punish them or their body's for doing what is biologically appropriate and necessary for life.
Remember, before giving your dog some concoction of supplements that will drastically alter their body, in order to fix your lawn... use the tips and links above to address the root cause.. Soil imbalance!
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