There are three types of calls I routinely get from my family:
- All medical related concerns thanks to my EMT background.
- All vegetable gardening questions thanks to more than a couple of decades of dirt under my fingernails.
- Last but not least… Dogs of course!
It ensures that I regularly get to hear from most of my family fairly often. The most recent call I fielded was from one of my nephews who has a delightful female Golden Retriever. As a new homeowner, he asked what he could do to stop his dog’s urine from burning out patches of grass. He’d heard about a product named Grass Saver (I’m not including a link because I don’t support this product) which claimed to reduce a dog’s pH, which the product suggests is the culprit causing the lawn burn. He’d also heard of giving a dog tomato juice for the same reason.
It’s not the pH, it’s the Nitrogen!
Dietary changes and supplements won’t help because, in fact, it’s not the acid in the dog urine that causes the grass to burn. A healthy diet for dogs (and cats) is high in protein and normal bodily functions break it down. One of the byproducts is nitrogen, which is removed by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. It’s the nitrogen that burns the grass. Nitrogen has nothing to do with pH. So please don’t give your dogs any of the products claiming to alter pH. They’re just likely to cause other unwanted health problems for your dog. (See below.)
One caveat to the dietary changes is that if you are using a supermarket brand, consider switching to a high quality brand such as Wellness which is easy to order online with free delivery! Premium dry dog foods have a higher-quality, more digestible protein, which can lower the nitrogen content of your dog’s urine.
Female dogs are more likely to cause burn spots than male dogs–not because their urine contains more nitrogen–but because they usually squat, thereby concentrating their pee in one spot.
How to Prevent Lawn Burn
- First, take a look at the type of grass you have. Fescue and perennial Ryegrass are known to be the most resistent to excess nitrogen. Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass were the most sensitive.
- The most effective way to combat lawn burn is to water the area immediately after your dog urinates. Keep a handy watering can filled by the back door just for this purpose.
- Use a fertilizer on your lawn that has reduced nitrogen.
- Consider reseeding your lawn using the urine-resistant grasses.
- Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. The more your dog drinks, the more diluted the urine will be.
- Another way to keep your grass green is to train your dog to go in a designated area. It is easier to train puppies, but older dogs can also learn to go in a certain spot. Use small (pea) gravel or mulch.
- For a male dog, add a marking area — a fake fire hydrant, a large rock, bird bath, etc. Use a short leash and bring your dog to the spot. Use a command such as “Potty” or “Do Your Business.” Then reward him with a treat. If you’re consistent, within a few weeks to a few months, you’ll have a trained dog. But you can’t let your dog be unsupervised in your lawn during this time.
Isn’t Your Dog’s Health What Matters Most?
There are many products/supplements available that claim to solve this problem. But they all use an amino acid (DL methionine) as an acidifier to reduce pH. While this sounds good in theory, in reality DL Methionine can cause bladder stones and kidney stones. The Center for Veterinary Medicine offers the following warnings in regard to DL Methionine usage:
- “Animals predisposed to acidosis should not use this product”
- “Animals with bladder and kidney dysfunction should not use this product”
- “Animals on prescription diets should not use this product”
- “Animals with any known health problems should not use this product”
- “Dalmatians and cats are very acidic and should not use this product”
- Recommend that the customer consult with a veterinarian before using this product.
So please avoid supplements advertised to change your dog’s chemistry in order to eliminate burn spots. Talk to your veterinarian before making any changes in your dog’s diet.
Thankfully, my nephew agreed that his dog’s health is more important. He decided to put a sprinkler in his backyard on a timer.