Pet Damage to Lawns


††† Star-Tip 1060

Gardening Tips for successful and beautiful Landscapes and Gardens


When nature calls, pets and other animals will do what they must, where they want. They do not understand that a nice green lawn is something you care very much about.


If you have ever had to deal with Lawn burn, a common problem that often results when the urine of an animal burns the grass in your lawn, you know how frustrating it is and how difficult it can be to prevent or cure. There are some products to assist in correcting this problem, but there are several things youíll need to do to optimize your success. Letsí first look into identifying the problem, why pet urine damages grass, and then what can be done to help.


Identifying the real cause of lawn burn


Before making any changes to correct pet urine initiated lawn burn, make sure that it is from an animal and itís your pet that is really the culprit.



Several lawn diseases will look like lawn burn, with small, characteristic brown patches. If the cause of burn is from a pet, it may show a green ring around the outside edge where the urine was dilute enough to actually work as a fertilizer.


This ring can help distinguish a urine problem from a grub infestation or disease that will also create similarly looking brown spots.


Make sure that the spots are in areas where your pet urinates. Most dogs have an area in the yard that they normally choose to use. Then, make sure that the grass in those brown spots is still firmly attached. Grab a handful and give it a steady pull. If the whole bunch of grass pulls up, roots and all, then you may be dealing with an insect (grub?) problem. If small sections of grass seem to have weak rooting (grass pull up easily), it may be a fungus problem. Do you water in the evening? Wet grass at night will often lead to fungus. Otherwise, if the grass is firmly rooted, then it points to lawn burn that might be caused by an animal. And thirdly, make sure that your dog is the problem, and that itís not your neighbor's dog coming into your yard and creating the problem. †Part of the solution is treating the animal and to treat your own dog wonít do any good, if itís a different animal.


The cause of pet initiated lawn burn


Lawn burn is caused by high amount of nitrogen and salts in pet urine. Because of this, when the animal urinates, it is similar to pouring liquid fertilizer on the lawn. A little fertilizer is good for the grass, but an excess (especially in hot weather) causes nitrogen burn. The prevention of lawn burn deals with trying to reduce the amount of nitrogen coming into contact with the grass.




Contributing factors

There are several contributing factors that 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 marking many spots, like males.

         Large dogs deposit more urine so they increase the quantity of nitrogen in one location, making lawn burn more likely.

         Dogs fed a high protein diet are more likely to produce a urine that causes lawn burn.

         Yards already receiving near maximum levels of nitrogen, that small extra nitrogen in the pet urine may be all that is needed to put these lawns over the edge and cause lawn burn.

         Lawns that are stressed; suffering from drought or disease are more susceptible to damage.

         Newly sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn.


Solving the problem

         Saturate the urinated spots with water. After the pet urinates, pour a gallon of water right on the spot to dilute the urine.

         Run your sprinklers manually for 30 minutes, early in the morning, once a week to flush the entire area, and gets spots you may have missed.

         Try feeding 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.

         Encourage your pet to drink more, this will help dilute the urine and decrease the risk of lawn burn. Small amounts of non-salted broth in the drinking water will improve flavor and help increase your dog's water intake.

         Try to train your pet to urinate in a location that is less visible. This approach is very effective for some owners that do not want to add supplements to their dogs' diet. There are many books available on this subject.

         Replant your yard with more urine-resistant grasses. The most resistant grasses tend to be perennial ryegrasses and fescues. The most sensitive tend to be Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda.

         Apply a product to the lawn such as Dogonit Lawn Treatment or a small amount of hydrated lime. These will bind the soil and so, tend to neutralize the nitrogen in your pet's urine.

         Reduce the stress on your lawn by not over- or under-fertilizing and by providing deeper watering.

         If the grass has been severely damaged you will need to re-seed or sod the spots after flushing away the excessive nitrogen. Failure to flush the nitrogen will cause the new grass to also die.

         If neighbors' pets are causing the problem, you may advise your neighbors of the leash laws. Using a fence or motion-activated sprinkler may be helpful in keeping them off of your lawn.







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