Lawn burn is unsightly, but before you start implementing changes to correct lawn burn, you need to make sure that your dog is actually the culprit.
Identifying lawn burn
Before you start implementing changes to correct lawn burn, you need to make sure that your dog is actually the culprit. Several lawn diseases will look like lawn burn, with small, characteristic brown patches. First, make sure that the brown spots are in areas where your dog urinates. Most dogs will have an area in the yard they choose to use as the ‘bathroom.’
Secondly, make sure that the grass in the brown spots is still firmly attached. Grab a handful and give it a steady pull. If the grass is firmly rooted, then it points to lawn burn. If the whole bunch of grass pulls up, roots and all, then you may be dealing with a grub problem.
And thirdly, make sure that your dog is the problem. If your neighbor’s dog is coming into your yard and creating the problem, it will not do any good to treat your own dog.
The cause of lawn burn
Dog urine will burn leaf blades because the high concentration of salts in the urine will pull water out of the leaf dehydrating the leaf. This problem is exaggerated by warm and/or dry weather hastening water movement out of the leaf, increasing the rate and degree of burn.
The nitrogen causes the lawn to burn in dog urine. Because dog urine is very high in nitrogen, it is similar to pouring liquid fertilizer on the lawn when the dog urinates. A little fertilizer is good for the grass, but an excess causes nitrogen burn. The prevention of lawn burn deals with reducing the amount of nitrogen coming into contact with the grass.
Several contributing factors increase the likelihood of developing lawn burn.
Female dogs are more likely to cause lawn burn than males because they void their entire bladder in one location instead of lifting their leg and marking, like males.
Those dogs, usually young active dogs, fed a high protein diet are more likely to produce a urine that causes lawn burn.
Heavily fertilized yards are already receiving near maximum levels of nitrogen. The small amount of nitrogen in dog urine may be all that is needed to put these lawns over the edge and cause lawn burn.
Lawns that are stressed are more susceptible to damage. Lawns suffering from drought, disease, or are newly sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn.
Successfully treating and preventing lawn burn
Preventing the dog from urinating on the turf is the best option. Train your dog to urinate in a less visible location. This approach is very effective for some owners that do not want to add supplements to their dogs’ diet. A less effective option is to thoroughly water the area where the dog has urinated, preferably before the urine drying on the leaf. This is accomplished by pouring several cupfuls of water on the spot to dilute the urine.
Other options include:
1. Reduce the stress on your lawn by not over-or under-fertilizing and by providing frequent watering.
2. Feed a high-quality dog food that does not exceed the pet’s protein requirement. High-quality foods have more digestible protein sources that are more completely utilized by the pet and create less nitrogenous waste in the urine.
3. Encouraging your dog to drink more will help dilute the urine and decrease the risk of lawn burn. Small amounts of non-salted broth in the drinking water may help increase your dog’s water intake.
4. Preventing the dog from urinating on the turf is the best option. Train your dog to urinate in a less visible location. This approach is very effective for some owners that do not want to add supplements to their dogs’ diet.
5. Replant your yard with more urine-resistant grasses such as a species called alkali grass (aka. Fultz weeping alkali grass) which may be able to withstand the salts better than our traditional lawn grasses. Unfortunately, this grass doesn’t withstand Midwest summers, and it must be irrigated to survive.
The most resistant grasses tend to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues. The most sensitive tend to be Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda.
6. Feed your dog a supplement like Green-UM or Drs. Foster and Smith Lawn Guard, or apply a product to the lawn such as Dogonit LawnTreatment. These products bind and neutralize the nitrogen in your pet’s urine. (we see this almost as a last resort)
Brown spots created by lawn burn are not a medical threat to your dog. However, they can be unsightly and potentially expensive to repair. By understanding the cause of these spots and then making a few changes, you should be able to give your dog full range of the yard and still enjoy a trouble-free lawn.
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