Picture this: one relaxing afternoon, you take your dog for regular exercise and play on your lawn. Everything seemed perfect until your dog peed on the grass. While your plants may seem unharmed initially, they can suffer a fatal consequence in a week or even in a few days.
Before dramatically disowning your beloved children, your plant, or your dog, continue reading as our plant doctors have summarized the basics of saving your lush lawn and stopping dog pee from killing grass naturally without any catch.
Why Does Dog Pee Kill Grass?
Before knowing how to stop dogs' pee from killing grass, learning why a dog's urine can kill plants is crucial.
Dog urine contains a cocktail of organic chemicals, including nitrogen (in the form of urea, uric acid, proteins, and amino acids) and some salts like sodium, potassium, and chlorides.
Do any of the elements above ring a bell? If so, these elements are, in fact, fundamental in plant growth and are not bad at all. However, a concentrated amount literally burns your plant alive, similar to a fertilizer burn when applied in an undiluted solution.
Urea is a highly soluble and volatile compound that gives the characteristic smell of pee (there is a lot of chemistry going on here). This means it can flow with water and gets absorbed; some may intrude directly into the little holes on the leaves (stomata). The salts are ready to push your grass to the brink of death. This is how dog urine can kill the grass.
Does Male or Female Dog Urine Kill Grass?
Does female dog urine kill grass faster? We will discuss this baffling question in this article. Although the chemical composition varies between the sex, both the male and the female dog urine can murder the helpless grass in your garden. The direct link may lie in their urinating behavior. A female dog sits like a queen while the males uncontrollably take a leak on one side. As a result, the spot urination of a female dog covers a smaller and denser area than the splashed wee of a male, which is hugely detrimental to the grass on the lawn.
Lawn Damage From Dog Urine: The Factors
Before we delve deeper into how to stop dog urine from killing grass naturally, understanding the factors contributing to the damage in your lawn is vital. The list of determinants is as follows:
- Sex. As we have mentioned previously, female dogs often leave large brown patches on the lawn rather than male ones because of their urinating instinct.
- Size. Larger dogs often excrete significantly more urine than smaller ones and might deposit pee in larger surface areas.
- Hydration. A well-hydrated animal pees a higher and unconcentrated urine volume than thirsty dogs.
- Diet. A high protein intake means there are loads of free nitrogen hanging around your pet's body, which can be potentially urinated in a denser solution.
- Grass species. Several grass varieties can partially withstand stresses, including ammonium or urine toxicity. For instance, perennial ryegrass and fescue are more hardy than bermudagrass.
- Unhealthy lawn. Grass covers that are less maintained, previously experienced drought stress or diseases, or recently seeded turfs succumb more to dog pee.
- Frequent fertilization. Since the main culprit for killing grass due to pee is the undiluted amounts of nitrogen, adding nitrogen fertilizers might worsen the condition.
How to Prevent Dogs Pee From Killing Your Grass
As the cliché statement goes, prevention is indeed better than cure. Before your pet can take a wee, here are simple ways to stop dog urine from killing grass on your lawn:
- Train your dog. We would say that this is the best way to protect grass from dog urine. Command your pet with the potty cue word to rush to a specific spot on the lawn to minimize the patchy damage. Do not give your dog a treat unless it crosses to the designated area and wees.
- Hydrate your dog. If you have ever asked yourself, "what are the home remedies or what can I give my dog to neutralize his urine" the answer is simple: water. This hydrating compound is famed as a universal solvent, able to dilute most solutions, including body fluids such as urine. The more hydrated your dog is, the higher the volume of pee it will excrete, cutting the number of dissolved solids in the urine.
- Feed him less. It doesn't mean starving your dog to make it skinny but reducing the protein or incorporating other food sources into its diet. Since nitrogen is the backbone of the protein chemical structure, it is expected to reduce nitrogen in dog urine, bringing down the possibility of a toxic burn in your grass.
- Plant hardy turfgrass. As we have previously mentioned, considering the grass species grown in your lawn, primarily if you own pets, is one of the determinants to keeping your lawn green. Perennial ryegrass, which quickly recovers and shoots new leaves after suffering from leaf burn, and tall and red fescue are excellent choices for fur parents to sow in their lawns. On the other hand, Kentucky bluegrass and Bermudagrass, although tolerant of salinity or soils with dense amounts of salts, often succumb to the excessive ammonium in the urine.
- Lawn alternatives. The next idea on how to stop dog urine killing grass is rather unpopular: using artificial grass like a play corner in the kindergarten. Your fur pup can play to its heart's content without worrying about potential toxicity to the turf grass.
How to Naturally Neutralize Dog Urine on Grass
If your pet has already peed on the lawn, you can use one of the following tips to halt the fatal consequences. Here is a list of how to neutralize dog urine on grass naturally:
- Water your lawn. Our beloved pups, especially untrained ones, often take a piss without warning. If this happens, the immediate treatment is to spray or water the spot where it urinated, about 3-5 times the volume of its pee. Since water has a pH level near 7 (higher values are alkaline while lower values are acidic), it will naturally neutralize the acidity and leach the salt content deposited in the ground.
- Test your soil. Knowing the exact elemental makeup of the ground is a prerequisite before making any soil amendments. The earth could be naturally acidic, neutral, or alkaline and might not need additives to neutralize the effects of dog urine.
- Add garden lime. After knowing the soil properties, sprinkling garden lime or calcium carbonate could raise the soil pH to near neutral. However, as mentioned above, deciphering the soil properties is vital before application since turfgrass prefers a slightly acidic soil (pH between 5.5-7.0). Too much lime in the ground makes it alkaline and may block the absorption of some essential nutrients. The primary mechanism for urine toxicity is its composition, not its acidity.
- Add tomato juice to your dog's diet. In a paper published in the Journal of Nutrition, tomato juices have been reported to have neutralizing effects and reduced ammonia in urine. However, before changing your dog's diet, consult with your vet. Fruit juices can make the pets thirst for more water and may lead to kidney and heart problems in the long run.
Will Baking Soda Neutralize Dog Urine on Grass?
We often get the question: will baking soda neutralize dog urine on grass? The answer is no. While pee may be slightly acidic, ranging from pH 5.5 - 7.0 (the smaller the value, the more acidic it is), souring is not the actual mechanism for the plant's death. Baking soda, an alkaline substance, is known to neutralize acidity but will have little to no effects. In fact, the accumulation of baking soda, composed of sodium bicarbonate, is deemed toxic to plants.
Does Tomato Juice Stop Dog Pee Killing Grass?
Another mythical question, "does tomato juice stop dog pee from killing grass?" makes our plant police raise their eyebrows. Under any circumstances, we do not recommend applying tomato juice, contrary to the belief that it will make the plant thirsty and the roots drink more water. The main composition of juice is water, sugar, and other nutritional compounds. Sugar accumulation on the roots can block water absorption, leading to wilting and severe dehydration. Juice is a carbon-rich compound that may attract the growth of pathogenic fungi, branching out to another problem (oh, poor grass!).
Does Vinegar Stop Dog Pee From Killing Grass?
Adding vinegar to the grass will not save the grass and may even worsen the condition. The main component of vinegar is acetic acid which makes it sour. It's even worse than urine and is listed as a contact weed killer because of its potent action. Vinegar desiccates the roots, making the plant "dry out." Plants' root cell walls are stripped out and broken down, releasing the plant fluids that would cause the plant to die. While some sources on the internet claim that adding apple cider to the dog's diet can neutralize its pee, you risk giving your dog urinary tract diseases, bladder infections, crystals, and bladder stones.
What Can I Give My Dog to Neutralize His Urine?
No food or drink can prevent your dog from peeing. However, giving your dog more water will dilute its urine and minimize the adverse effects on the lawn. We don't recommend adding fruit juices and apple cider vinegar to a dog's diet without consulting your vet.
Will Grass Burned by Dog Urine Grow Back?
Depending on the grass species and urine concentration, your grass may regrow. Hardy species, like perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and red fescue, are known to withstand the side effects of urine and can regrow in no time.
How to Protect Grass From Dog Urine?
The best way to protect grass is to train your dog to urinate in one designated spot. If the damage was already done, water the lawn with at least three times the urine volume.