Dog owners recognize those brown spots on the lawn may be caused by “Spot” himself, or herself.
Dog urine and dog feces do affect lawns. To keep dogs and owners happy, there are solutions for the lawn — short of getting rid of the family pet.
1. You can change the kind of grass you grow on your lawn. Perennial rye grasses and fescues are hardier than Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass.
2. You can protect the grass you have (keep it healthy and well-watered; fertilize carefully)
3. You can try to prevent lawn burn by changing your dog’s food and water intake.
Some people think the dog’s urine is too acidic, but it is actually alkaline. Although most grasses don’t mind a bit of alkalinity, dog wastes are too much for it to handle. Dog urine should have a pH between 6.0 and 8.0.
Vets and lawn care experts offer help for homeowners who also own pets.
The Veterinary Services Department of Drs. Foster & Smith offer valuable information. There are many causes behind brown patches beyond your dog using the yard as his bathroom. If the brown grass is firmly rooted, it probably suffers from lawn burn. If it pulls out readily, the cause may be grubs.
If you’re sure Fido is the problem, and it’s not uncontrollable neighboring dogs, you can try several solutions. The problem is caused by excessive nitrogen in the dogs’ urine. (Some authors suggest that dog feces is also a culprit, but it’s much easier to dispose of and avoid problems.)
Lawn burn is more likely caused by larger dogs (more urine); female dogs (males lift their legs to mark); and younger dogs on higher protein diets. Other factors are newly planted lawns, overly stressed lawns (drought; diseased), and lawns that have already been maximally fertilized with nitrogen.
Foster and Smith offer several solutions for lawn problem.
1. Dilute the nitrogen waste. Hose down the spot after Fido goes to the bathroom or at least dump a bucket of water there. If you already have a hose connection ready, this isn’t as hard as it seems. Most adult dogs only go out about 4 to 6 times per day. The urine is more concentrated in the mornings. Have a bucket ready and get the kids to participate in the doggy clean-up solution.
2. Dog food. If you feed a high quality food, you’ll have “less nitrogenous waste in the urine.”
3. Drink. If your dogs drink more, the waste won’t be as strong. Drs. Foster and Smith suggest putting a non-salty broth in your dog’s drinking water.
4. Location. Move the bathroom to a less noticeable spot. This is especially helpful to owners that don’t want to add dietary supplements.
5. Supplements. If you don’t mind supplements, the doctors suggest their “Drs. Foster and Smith Lawn Guard” or using a lawn treatment product like “Dogonit Lawn Treatment.” Such products “bind and neutralize the nitrogen in your pet’s urine.”
If your neighbor’s dogs are a problem, suggest that they leash their pets. You could also fence your yard to keep other dogs away.
Keep your own lawn healthy so it can handle more stress, and re-plant as needed with the sturdier grasses recommended earlier.
In regards to changing a dog’s diet, another vet, Dr. Steve Thompson, offers advice about what not to do. He says owners should always check with their vet before changing a dog’s diet that meets his nutritional needs.
Dr. Thompson refers to a study done by another vet, Dr. A.W. Allard, (Canine Practice journal, 1981) who tested intervals of diluting urine spots for effectiveness. Dr. Allard found that watering within 8 hours after urination was much more effective than watering 12 hours later. In fact, up to 8 hours showed that the nitrogen levels were about equal to fertilization effects, but watering 12 hours later was too late to prevent burns. Thus, homeowners could water their doggy bathroom areas a couple times per day and perhaps avoid the worst of the lawn damage.
In regards to a dog’s diet, Dr. Thompson said owners should not add acidifying agents, including “nutritional supplements like D-1, Methionine (Methioform), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), or fruit juices,” which will not be helpful and could “predispose the dog to an increased incidence of certain bladder stones.”
Further, Dr. Thompson warns against alkalinizing agents, “including baking soda and potassium citrate [which] can predispose to other types of bladder stones or infections.”
Owners can add water to dry dog foods or feed canned foods, which contain more water than dry dog foods. Some people have used a home remedy of tomato juice. Dr. Thompson says that may work to increase thirst and dilute the urine, but the “increased salt intake can cause problems for dogs with existing kidney or heart conditions.”
That’s why you should talk to your vet before trying home treatments of something you read on the Internet or heard from a neighbor.
A combination of preventions and cures works for many homeowners and gives Fido a (bathroom) break for being a dog.
Dr. Steve Thompson, DVM. Director of the Wellness Clinic/Community Practice Companion Animal Medicine and Behavior, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, West Lafayette, Indiana. “Dietary Modification Techniques.” Retrieved 1-29-10. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/turf/dog_lawn_problems.
Drs. Foster and Smith. PetEducation.com. Veterinary and Aquatic Services Department. Http://www.peteducation.com/article. “Lawn Burn Caused by Dog Urine.” Retrieved 1-29-10.