Why Does Dog Wee Kill Grass?

Why does DOG wee kill grass hero image

A dog is man’s best friend but a lawn’s worst enemy.

It’s a familiar sight: A lush green lawn pockmarked with ugly brown patches. This causes many a pet parent to scratch their head and wonder: Why does dog wee kill grass?

So let’s ask the question.
Is your answer:

a) Dog pee is acidic
b) It’s the high nitrogen content
c) Dog pee is very concentrated and burns the grass.

The correct answer is (b) it has a high nitrogen/urea content.

Why is Dog Pee Bad for Grass? Protein, Nitrogen, and Ammonia

What do you look for in a best food for dogs?
Ideally you study the product’s ingredients. The best foods have a named meat heading up the list. Or perhaps you go the whole hog and feed a raw diet.

Dogs are omnivores that thrive on a meat-rich diet. But those chicken fillets or beef mince are high in protein. During digestion protein is broken down into ammonia-like molecules and nitrogen. This is then harmlessly got rid of urine.

What common household product is also high in ammonia?
Yep, bleach!

And pour bleach on grass and what do you get?
Dead grass.

Which is pretty much what’s happening when the dog pees on the lawn. But of course, things are a tad more complicated than this.

For a start, nitrogen can be a good thing….in the right quantities. Yep, Dilute nitrogen is a fertilizer…so it’s all in the concentration. Too much is bad, while a little can be a good thing.

Which brings us nicely onto the male vs female dog as destroyers of healthy looking lawns.

Four Legs Bad, Three Legs Good?

It’s widely accepted that female dogs are worse for grass health than male.
This is because of the dynamics of how a dog pees.

A female dog peeing squats, with her nether regions close to the ground. This results in a localized puddle of pee.

In contrast, a male dog peeing cocks a leg to sprinkle a tuft of grass, tree, or fence post. It’s this ‘spreading pee thinly’ that saves the grass where the boys are concerned.

Run with this logic and you soon see that a female dog from a large breed (who therefore has a bigger bladder capacity and produces lakes of pee, rather than puddles,) is the worst offender.

How to Stop Dog Pee Killing Grass

Let’s look at the facts, in order to find a solution to dog peeing on grass and killing it.
What we know is:

  • Dog pee is high in nitrogen products
  • Too much nitrogen kills grass
  • The more concentrated the pee, the worse the problem

This gives us three ways to ban brown and encourage green growth.

  1. Good Quality Diet: OK, so meat is high protein, so what about feeding a vegetarian diet? Wrong! The more highly digestible the protein, the less waste product is present in urine. Meat is highly digestible whereas plant based protein is not. The best option is a high quality food made from a named meat, so that the dog digests most of the goodness with less waste nitrogen produced.
  2. Too Much of a Good Thing: When the dog pees, they add nitrogen to the lawn. If you are already regularly fertilizing the grass, this leads to a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ scenario. Instead, suck right back on additional fertilizers so the grass isn’t overwhelmed with nitrogen.
  3. Weak as Water: Encourage the dog to drink and their urine is weaker. Less concentrated pee isn’t a problem. (Proof of this is the extra lush ring of grass around the urine burn. This is where the nitrogen content is more dilute and works to feed the lawn.) Try switching from dry to canned food, or add water to their kibble. In addition, water the grass regularly so that the ground is moist and will dilute a wee-shower. And yes, watching the dog and tipping a pan of water of the spot, also works a treat…but rather labour intensive.

Which Plants are Dog Pee Resistant?

The grasses that are most resistant are those with deep roots, such as rye or fescue. Those deep roots suck up water from deeper in the soil, where the nitrogen content is lower.

On the downside, some grasses are more nitrogen sensitive than others. These include Bermuda grass and bluegrass. Sow these seeds on a dry surface that regularly used by a female dog and the garden quickly becomes a poster-boy for brown-patch central.

But combine a hardy grass such as rye or fescue with daily watering, and you stand the best chance of a croquet-smooth, green lawn.

It’s the Acid in Urine that Does It…NOT!

A common misapprehension is that dog pee kills grass because it’s so acidic. Not true.

Question: What neutralizes dog pee?
Answer: Don’t go there!

The pH of healthy dog urine is around pH 6.5 to 7.0 . This is within a hair’s breadth of neutral and is best not messed with.

Bear in mind that this is on a scale of zero to 14, with neutral being 7.0, and acid registering at 6.0 or below.

In fact, acid urine is not normal and an important clue that a dog may have a lower urinary tract infection. Indeed, acid urine promotes the formation of certain crystals and bladder stones. This makes it an important problem to identify and correct for the sake of your dog’s good health.

Some old wives tales such as giving the dog bicarbonate of soda or even orange juice, can potentially do more harm than good. By manipulating the pH of canine urine, you can accidentally induce crystal formation. When crystals clump together in pee to form stones, the dog can be in serious trouble. Don’t go there.

Why does dog wee kill grass?

A combination of nitrogen waste products and strong urine is what kills grass.

Combat the problem by keeping the lawn watered and encouraging the dog to drink more. Or, go with the flow, give up croquet, and accept those brown patches are what makes your garden unique on Google maps!

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