Your dog’s urine should actually fertilize your grass, not kill it. So if urine is killing your grass it usually means your dog is excreting high levels of nitrogen from the breakdown of proteins that are undigested. The nitrogen burns the grass much the same as if you would put too much fertilizer in one spot. And there are certain types of grasses that are more susceptible to nitrogen burn and grasses such as Bermuda and Kentucky Bluegrass, while perennial ryegrass and Fescue seem to be the most resistant. In times of drought any type of grass may suffer a little from the overload of nitrogen.
So, what can you do about this?
- Make sure your dog is receiving enough water. If you are feeding dry kibble, add water to her food. This will dilute the nitrogen load when they urinate.
- Try changing the dog’s food—you should do this often anyway. Lawn burn is usually a sign of low-quality proteins in the dog food that are not being completely digested. Sometimes it is from a high-protein diet but the dog is still not digesting and utilizing the protein. A change in food with a different protein source and/or protein level will likely help. You could also consider adding an animal-based enzyme, like Mercola’s Healthy Pet Digestive Enzymes, to help with the breakdown and absorption of proteins, fats, etc.
- If you fertilize your lawn, stop now! Not only is the ground high in nitrogen from fertilizer, but then your dog pees and adds even more. But the biggest reason not to fertilize your lawn is that almost all synthetic lawn fertilizers contain toxic heavy metals linked to ecological and human health hazards, including developmental, reproductive, cancer, liver, and lung damage. (This is a subject I will be addressing in another article, but for now, read one of the reports here: http://www.pirg.org/toxics/reports/wastelands/#exec).
- In times of drought, you can also follow your dog with a hose or bucket of water and douse the areas your dog urinates.
What about all the products available to feed the dog that tout changing your dog’s PH or by adding salt? I highly recommend against all of them. The products that change the PH of the body add the risk of your dog getting bladder stones or urine crystals, which thrive in the altered-PH body. Other products are high in salt that make your dog want to drink more, thus producing more urine, thus diluting the nitrogen. Why not just give the dog more water on their high-quality, more digestible food in the first place?
As breeders, we have a lot of dogs peeing on our yard. You won’t see any urine burns. Even when we lived on one-acre, we never had lawn burns and people always commented on it. Actually, when we had Great Dane’s and before we knew better and fed crappy, grain-based dog food and used lawn fertilizer, our yard did have these burns. But since changing both, we’ve never had this problem again. So, it’s either one of—or a combination of all—these things: we change foods every few months, we always feed wet (simply add water to the food right before feeding), and we no longer add synthetic fertilizers to our lawn.