Lawn burn and your dog – there are no guarantees

There are a lot of myths and home ‘cures’ for avoiding lawn burn when you have a dog in your life.  One of the more recent myths shared with me was ‘I was told that once I switched him to raw food, that he wouldn’t burn the lawn.’

Burnt grass


There’s something at work here called basic chemistry.  When a dog digests protein, a by-product is nitrogen that is excreted in the urine.  Because the nitrogen content is so high, it’s like putting too much nitrogen fertilizer on the lawn.  It burns.  Plain and simple.

Some owners report that by ensuring digestible proteins (hence, I believe the link here to a recommendation for a raw diet), the degree and frequency of lawn burn is diminished.  However, I’ve never met a dog parent yet who has successfully managed a balance between a nutritious diet and lawn burn simply by balancing protein content.

It’s more likely that owners are encouraging their dog to drink more through adding fluids to their food, effectively diluting the concentration of urine.  Others add dilute broths to the drinking water to encourage the dog to drink more. Here again, the result is diluted urine.

It’s fact that female dogs tend to empty their bladder more fully with each urination whereas male dogs tend to mark and spread their urine more.  So owners of female dogs can anticipate lawn burn as a fact of life.

And of course, the larger the dog – the more urine.  No brainer there, either.

If you are really stressed about having burnt out lawn patches, here are some practical management techniques that have nothing to do with your dog’s diet:

  • teach your dog to urinate in designated parts of your yard
  • make sure you don’t over-fertilize your lawn – if your starting point is already lots of nitrogen, then your dog’s urine just tips the balance
  • ask at your local garden centre about types of grass that are more nitrogen tolerant; re-seed with these varieties

Since my practice is all about balance, it does concern me that owners are prepared to dose their dog with substances reporting to help with lawn burn.  Your dog eats protein.  Nitrogen excretion in the urine is natural.  Why upset that balance?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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