If you have a lawn, chances are you’ve battled dandelions, weeds, and falling leaves while taking care of it. But as a dog owner, you may have also noticed dog urine damage creating patches of dry, dying, or already dead grass. Learn how urine can harm lawns, common myths surrounding dog urine killing grass, and how you can keep your dog and your lawn healthy.
- Is Dog Urine Killing Your Grass ?
- Is There a Difference Between Male and Female Dog Urine Damage?
- Behavior Solutions for Dog Urine Killing Grass
- Create a Potty Spot Away From the Lawn
- Train Your Dog to Use Artificial Lawns
- Rule Out Health Issues
- Product Solutions for Dog Urine Damage to Grass
- Urine Patch Kits
- Dog Rocks
- Dietary Supplements
- Diet Changes
Is Dog Urine Killing Your Grass ?
Lawns need a specific pH and nutrient balance in order to grow properly. Dog urine, on the other hand, is high in nitrogen-containing compounds and is also slightly basic: Dog urine pH is 7.0-7.5; neutral pH is 7.0. This can upset the balance of nutrients in your turf. In addition, dogs tend to urinate in the same area repeatedly. Their urine then creates a concentration of these compounds in the targeted area. Over time, that concentration overwhelms the grass, leading to patches of dead or dying lawn.
Poor soil health can also compound the problem. If the soil is already struggling to maintain the growth of your lawn, the addition of your dog’s urine can be enough to tip the balance into the negative.
Sometimes, dog urine damage can lead to overgrown patches of lawn, as some grasses will increase their growth with the higher concentration of compounds. This can lead to patchy, unsightly “bushy” spots on the lawn instead of dead spots.
Is There a Difference Between Male and Female Dog Urine Damage?
There’s a common myth that only the urine from female dogs causes lawn damage. It was believed that a female dog’s urine is more acidic than a male’s, thus leading to an increase in potential damage. However, there is no difference in the pH values of urine in healthy male and female dogs. Both have the same concentration of nitrogen compounds and other urinary elements which can damage the lawn.
One actual difference between male and female dogs is how they urinate. Female dogs tend to squat to go potty, leading to horizontal surfaces, such as the lawn, being where they go. On the other hand, male dogs tend to urinate on more vertical surfaces, such as trees, bushes, and flowers. While this affects the lawn less, the urine can still cause damage to other plants.
Another common myth is that some breeds of dog have more acidic urine than others. While some breeds may be more prone to diseases that cause kidney or bladder issues, they do not directly change the urine in healthy dogs. As long as your dog is healthy, there is no breed difference that changes their urine. Your dog’s diet is actually a bigger contributing factor, along with health issues that can affect the urine such as kidney disease or urinary infections.
Behavior Solutions for Dog Urine Killing Grass
If you suspect your dog’s urine is causing problems, there are some changes you can make:
Create a Potty Spot Away From the Lawn
Setting up a designated potty area of gravel, mulch, or a similar substrate is a great alternative to having your dog use the lawn. Gravel and other smaller rocks allow urine to drain easily. It also makes it easier to pick up stool and sanitize the area with a weekly hose-down or sanitary spray. The area doesn’t need to be very large, but should be large enough to give your dog room to roam a little and sniff before going potty. You can turn a large planter area, part of the lawn, or even a spot next to the patio into a designated spot.
To get your dog interested in using the area, start by bringing them to it on leash. From there, use your regular potty cue, such as “Go potty,” or “Go pee,” to encourage your dog to sniff and use the spot. Once they have successfully gone, praise and reward them with a treat. You can also use grass clippings or some of your dog’s stool placed over the gravel to entice them to use the spot if they seem uninterested at first.
Train Your Dog to Use Artificial Lawns
During potty training as a puppy, your dog learns to go on a specific surface. From there, many dogs develop substrate preferences, such as going potty on lawns, gravel, or even mulch. If your dog is very particular about using the lawn, you may be able to teach them to use a lawn alternative such as artificial grass. Most pet stores carry products made from artificial turf. These fit into a frame with a filter for easy dumping and cleaning of urine. You can also place astroturf over a mulched, gravel, or dirt area to allow the urine to drain naturally into the soil.
A second alternative for smaller dogs is the use of a dog litter box. These are popular in apartment situations where a dog may not be able to get outside to go potty. However, you can still use these as an alternative to the lawn. Place one on a back porch, in the backyard, or on a nearby balcony. These products use absorbent natural litters such as wood or paper to absorb urine odor.
To get your dog used to the lawn alternative, you’ll want to follow the same steps as teaching your dog to use a new substrate. Begin by taking them on leash to the new area and asking them to go potty. Your dog may take longer than normal to figure out this is where they are supposed to go, so give them an extra 10-15 minutes to explore. Once your dog has successfully used the substrate, praise and reward with a treat. If your dog is struggling, you can place grass clippings over the spot to entice them to go.
Rule Out Health Issues
Sometimes, changes to your dog’s health can lead to urine damage to your lawn. Health conditions such as urinary tract infections can change the pH and concentration of your dog’s urine. Other underlying issues such as kidney or liver disease can upset the balance of your dog’s urine. Certain medications may also dilute or concentrate urine differently.
In addition to lawn damage, you may see other symptoms that indicate an issue with your dog’s health. They may need to urinate more frequently, have cloudy or bloody urine, or may try to urinate with little success. Other changes include loss or increase of appetite, weight changes, and behavioral changes. These are all signs of something that should be examined by your vet.
Your vet will likely perform a series of tests depending on what problems are suspected. These include bloodwork, urinalysis, general exams, and overall history. From there, your vet can recommend additional tests and treatments. As your dog is treated for these conditions, you may want to take them to other spots to go potty. This can help prevent damage to the lawn from medications until your dog is back to full health.
Product Solutions for Dog Urine Damage to Grass
Changing your dog’s behavior may not always be an option. These solutions can help reduce the damage to your lawn:
Urine Patch Kits
Urine patch kits are kits designed to patch the lawn itself rather than change your dog’s diet or habits. These kits help rebalance the nutritional content of the lawn in the affected area. This helps to stop or prevent dying grass patches. Patch kits have varying levels of success. If your dog doesn’t use the area frequently, they can be a great way to help fix minor problem spots on the lawn. If your dog frequents the area, however, it may become expensive to constantly patch small parts of the lawn.
Another alternative is regular lawn care such as fertilization, soil tests, weeding, and mowing. Overall lawn care can help prevent problem patches or spot them before they grow to an unsightly size. Sod patching kits can also be beneficial in areas where there is a lot of dead grass, or other treatments haven’t regrown the lawn.
While some may swear by using baking soda or other remedies to neutralize urine pH, they do more harm than good to your lawn. It’s better to stop the problem by treating the overall soil and lawn health or taking your dog to a new location to go potty.
It may sound odd to add rocks to your dog’s water, but many owners love products such as Dog Rocks for preventing dead lawn patches. Dog Rocks work by creating an ion exchange between the water and the rock, removing impurities in it that may be ingested by your dog and passed on in their urine. By ensuring your dog isn’t drinking these problem imbalances to begin with, the theory is that it will keep the lawn in balance as well.
Dog Rocks recommends you place the rocks in your dog’s water for at least 12 hours prior to drinking, to allow the product to work. The rocks should be replaced every two months. Since they’re not a supplement or adding any nutrients to your dog’s diet, they’re also safe to use around food allergies and medical conditions.
If you’re worried about your dog eating the rocks (everyone has come across that Labrador Retriever before), you can place them into a pitcher of water. Then, use the pitcher to fill your dog’s water bowl. This can help keep the rocks safely out of the way while still providing benefits.
Dietary supplements are designed to help change your dog’s urine composition so that it isn’t harmful to the lawn. These are usually sold in the form of chewable tablets or soft treats. They’re added to each of your dog’s meals, or given in between meals 1-2 times a day.
These supplements have seen good results, however, there are some drawbacks. If your dog has food allergies, you’ll want to be mindful of any ingredients in the product such as grain binders or protein sources that could cause problems. Some supplements can also interfere with medications your dog takes, especially if your dog has kidney or liver issues. It’s always best to check with your vet first before starting a new supplement.
The saying “you are what you eat” rings true when it comes to what your dog eats. Different diets can have different effects on the body, including the concentration of your dog’s urine. Raw food, kibble, and wet food diets all have different digestibility properties. This leads to changes in both the stool and urine depending on what your dog is able to digest and process. In high enough concentrations, this can affect the lawn.
It’s always best to first follow any nutritional recommendations from your vet, especially if your dog has food sensitivities. Kibble and wet food diets are often highly digestible, as the product is cooked and partially broken down in the process, making more nutrients available to your dog. Feeding the right amount of food daily can also prevent excess vitamins and minerals that aren’t stored in the body from being passed on in the urine and stool.
In addition, you want to always provide your dog with plenty of fresh water. Water helps to dilute the urine, which in turn can prevent burning of the lawn. Avoiding people foods that can be toxic or hard for your dog to digest can also keep their stool and urine healthy.
Dog urine damage to the lawn can be an unsightly problem. However, there are many solutions available that can help reduce or prevent the problem. Be sure to consult with your vet or trainer before trying out a new supplement or changing your dog’s routine. By keeping your dog healthy and happy, you can keep your lawn looking great too.