Issue 6: June 09
Dear Dr. Schelling

I've noticed a lot of brown spots popping up on my lawn and my husband says it's from lawn burn caused by our dog's urine. What is in my dog's urine that causes the grass to turn brown? Is there any way I can prevent the lawn burn from happening?

– Dreaming of Green Grass

Dear Dreaming,

Lawn burn can be a frustrating part of landscaping and is often common in households with dogs. Understanding the causes and techniques to correct or prevent lawn burn will be your best defense. A fellow veterinarian, Dr. Steve Thompson, has written an article with the answers to your burning question. Learn more about lawn burn in this article, written by Dr. Thompson: Understanding, Treating, and Preventing "Lawn Burn" from Dog Urine.

Here are a few summary points from Dr. Thompson's article. But I encourage you to read the full article as there is much more information presented and it is very interesting.

  • The cause of the brown spots is the nitrogen concentration in the urine. Nitrogen is a waste product eliminated by the body via urine and feces.
  • The high nitrogen content, in effect, over-fertilizes the area of the lawn.
  • The problem is more common with female dogs as they tend to squat and eliminate all their urine in one spot rather than engage in marking – leaving small amounts in a variety of places – as male dogs often tend to do.
  • pH does not seem to be a factor in lawn burn; therefore acidifying or alkalinizing the urine is probably not going to help. Moreover, messing with your dog's pH can lead to certain health problems.
  • More water consumption will help dilute the nitrogen concentration and therefore decrease the amount of lawn burn.
  • Feeding a high quality, highly digestible protein source may help decrease the amount of nitrogen waste being eliminated.
  • Train your dog to eliminate in a certain area. Tips for training are detailed in the full article.
  • Diluting the area with water after urination (up to about eight hours after elimination) will help prevent lawn burn.

-Dr. Schelling
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