Urine Scalding on Grass

By Courtney Barnes, BSc, DVM

My dog’s urine is killing my grass! Why is this happening?

Spots of dead grass are common in areas where dogs have urinated. It is due to the nitrogen content in the urine. Nitrogen is produced when the body breaks down and metabolizes proteins from the diet. Excess nitrogen is eliminated from the body via urine. This is perfectly normal for your dog, but not great for your grass.

Nitrogen is found in fertilizers in small amounts and used as food for plants. If too much fertilizer is applied to one area the same thing will happen: the grass will burn. You may find a ring of lush, green grass around the burned area because that grass is getting just enough nitrogen to feed it.

A common misconception is that the burning is due to the acidic pH of the urine. The pH of dog urine varies, depending on when and what they are eating. It ranges from acidic to neutral to basic. It has no relation to the nitrogen in the urine. Attempting to alter the pH of your dog’s urine with different medications or treatments can have an adverse effect on their health. For example, it can lead to the formation of crystals and stones in the urine.

Are some dogs more likely than others to burn the grass?

It has been reported that female dogs are more likely to burn grass with their urine than male dogs. This is not due to the sex of the dog, but because female dogs are more likely to squat and urinate in one place. Male dogs often lift their leg and urinate over a larger area. Any dog that prefers to squat in one area is more likely to burn the grass.

Can I do anything to decrease the nitrogen in the urine?

Most dogs require moderate protein levels in their diets. Diets that are very high in protein can result in more nitrogen in the urine. Restricting protein or feeding a low-protein diet is not recommended as it can be detrimental to their health. Your veterinarian can help you to determine what protein level would be adequate for your dog.

Encouraging your dog to consume more water will help to dilute the urine, and thereby dilute the amount of nitrogen, making it less likely to burn the grass. You can encourage fluid consumption by having multiple water sources, offering canned food, or adding water to your dog’s dry food. There are also diets specific for urinary tract health that encourage water consumption due to a higher salt content. Ask your veterinarian if these diets would be appropriate for your dog.

Is there a way to save my lawn?

The most reliable way to prevent the grass from burning is to water it immediately after your dog urinates. Another good option is to train your dog to urinate in an area of your lawn that is not as noticeable, or on a different substrate such as mulch, gravel, or concrete.

Removing dead grass and reseeding the areas will help the grass to grow back. There are also some varieties of grasses that are less susceptible to scalding due to faster growth rates and deeper root systems.

Related Articles