Tag Archives: urine

Dog faeces and urine could be harming nature reserves, according to new study

New research finds that dogs being walked in nature reserves contribute a significant amount of nutrients to the environment through their faeces and urine, which researchers warn could negatively impact local biodiversity. The research is published in the British Ecological Society journal, Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

Sign prohibiting dogs at one of the nature reserves. Credit: Pieter De Frenne

Significant levels of fertilisation

Researchers at Ghent University have estimated that each year dog faeces and urine add an average of 11kg of nitrogen and 5kg of phosphorous per hectare to nature reserves near the Belgian city of Ghent. The researchers say that the nutrients added through this neglected form of fertilisation are substantial and could be detrimental to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

The estimates for the amount of nitrogen being added by this previously unrecorded source are particularly significant when compared to the total levels of nitrogen being added across most of Europe through fossil fuel emissions and agriculture, which range from 5 to 25kg of nitrogen per hectare.

Professor Pieter De Frenne of Ghent University and lead author of the research said: “We were surprised by how high nutrient inputs from dogs could be. Atmospheric nitrogen inputs from agriculture, industry and traffic rightfully receive a lot of policy attention, but dogs are entirely neglected in this respect.

The researchers call for land managers, especially in low nutrient ecosystems, to emphasise the negative fertilisation effects of dogs to visitors, encouraging them to remove their dogs’ faeces. They also call for leash use to be enforced more stringently and the establishment of more off-leash dog parks to reduce the pressure on nature reserves.

Dogs on leashes and owners removing faeces have big impacts

In the experiment, which calculated the amount of nutrients dogs were adding to the environment by recording the number of dogs present in four nature reserves, the researchers modelled different scenarios including if the dogs were on or off leashes and if owners picked up dog faeces.

When the researchers modelled a scenario where all dogs were kept on leashes (legally required in all these reserves) they found that this reduced the fertilisation rates in the largest part of the reserves but strongly increased fertilisation rates in the small areas around paths. Over a year this input was as high as 175 kg of nitrogen and 73 kg of phosphorus per hectare.

Professor De Frenne said: “In our scenario where all dogs were kept on leashes, we found that in these concentrated areas around paths, nutrient inputs of both nitrogen and phosphorus exceeded legal limits for fertilization of agricultural land. Which is quite staggering as our study concerned nature reserves!”

In a scenario where dogs were on leashes, but all owners picked up their dogs’ faeces, the researchers found that this reduced fertilisation levels by 56% for nitrogen and 97% for phosphorus. This is due to dog faeces accounting for nearly all phosphorous being deposited whereas nitrogen is deposited equally by both faeces and urine.

Dog being walked on lead
In models where all dogs were kept on leashes, the researchers found that this reduced fertilisation rates in most of the reserves but strongly increased fertilisation rates in the areas around paths.

Increased nutrients a problem for nature reserves

The addition of nutrients to nature reserves might sound beneficial as these lead to increased plant growth, however, this mostly occurs in a limited number of nutrient demanding species that outcompete rarer specialists, reducing biodiversity.

“In many nature reserves, the management is specifically directed towards lowering soil nutrient levels to enhance plant and animal biodiversity. This can be done through methods like mowing and hay removal.” Explains Professor De Frenne. “Our findings suggest that the currently neglected inputs of dogs in nature reserves could delay restoration goals.”

Calculating nutrient levels

To estimate the amount of nutrients dogs were adding to the environment, the researchers first calculated dog abundance per hectare, per year, by counting dogs in four nature reserves close to the city of Ghent, Belgium. These counts were performed on 487 occasions over 18 months. They then performed a literature search of nutrient concentrations in dog urine and faeces to model different scenarios.

While this method meant that researchers could accurately calculate the abundance of dogs in the nature reserves, estimations had to be made based on the average dog and average volumes of urine and mass of faeces, as well as estimates of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations.

The researchers say that their data could be improved by recording breeds of dogs, as well as their size, weight and the number of urine and faecal deposits, for instance, by asking owners. The researchers also suggest that georeferencing dog faeces and urine locations could further help to detect fertilisation ‘hot spots’.

Source: British Ecological Society

Showered with love

Christchurch is known as The Garden City because so many residents, including me, like to have flower and vegetable gardens.

When I was gardening a few weeks ago, I noticed that the flowers on the left and right ends of my planter boxes had died. The others were coming away again with the spring rains and warmth.

And then I remembered. Spot has been coming to stay with us for daycare dates over the winter and spring. A boy, Spot likes to mark and my planter boxes are the perfect height for him.


Dog urine has a high concentration of nitrogen which will kill lawns and other plants when applied in a concentrated way. This is the same reason why gardeners who don’t follow the instructions on the label of nitrogen fertilizers find that instead of feeding their lawns and plants, they kill them off.

“Showered with love,” says Spot’s Mum… It’s okay. I like Spot and so does Izzy. A couple of dead plants are a small price to pay when we can enjoy the company of this beautiful boy.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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

Urine may be the saviour of wild dog populations

Africa’s endangered wild dogs are very clever:  no traditional fence can keep them out.  A doctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Craig R. Jackson, has explored ways to save the species.

Photo by Craig R. Jackson

Photo by Craig R. Jackson

African wild dogs are a distinct species that cannot inter-breed with other dogs.   The populations of these dogs were in good shape until a few decades ago. In the middle of the last century, there were 500,000 of them in 39 countries. But the species is in decline across nearly its entire range south of the Sahara. Today there are somewhere between 3000 and 5500 left, in fewer than 25 countries. That’s roughly one per cent remaining – and that’s the best case scenario.

Wild dog packs are loath to intrude into the territories of other packs. These territories are defined by urine scent trails. So the researchers and their colleagues collected sand that had been sprayed with urine by wild dogs and moved it near to other packs to keep them inside a certain area – with success.

The use of the scent markings helps to keep wild dogs out of areas where they think there are other dog packs.  But, collection of the urine needed for the scent trails is a problem.  So the next step is re-creating the urine artificially.

The conclusion of the thesis:  urine may be the best bet for saving the African wild dog population; that urine may have to be artificially produced.

Source:  NTNU media release


Cranberries and urinary tract infections

Many holistic veterinarians are now recommending the use of cranberries in the long-term treatment of pets who are susceptible to urinary tract infections, or UTI.

Diabetic dogs, in particular, seem to develop UTI more regularly than the normal dog population.  Spayed females are also more susceptible to infections.


When a dog has a UTI, they often struggle to eliminate urine or, when they do pee, not much comes out.  Sometimes blood is seen in the urine, the urine may smell stronger, or it has a dark colour.  If your dog has a UTI, then seeing your veterinarian for antibiotics is essential.  A urinary tract infection left untreated means your dog is uncomfortable and in pain and if the infection travels to the kidneys, then your dog is in serious trouble.

Cranberries can assist when your dog is being treated for a UTI because cranberries help to acidify the urine which helps to prevent bacteria growth.

But what about prevention?  This is where the cranberries come into their own.  Not only does the cranberry acidify the urine, but studies show that they have the ability to prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract and so they minimise the chance of an infection recurring.

Some owners treat their dog with cranberry powder because the juice is tart and unpalatable.  Owners must be careful because lots of cranberry juices are full of sugar (that’s a warning for humans as well as pets).

I’m working on a wheat-free cranberry biscuit recipe now that will feature as the January/February special.  I’ve just perfected my recipe and the latest batch is looking great – with the added benefit of no artificial colours!

Dog peeing

In order to prevent recurring urinary tract infections, it’s also really important to ensure your dog has lots of fresh, clean water to drink and has lots of opportunities to go outside and pee.  For diabetic dogs, care must be given to their daily diet to manage their blood sugars (another reason to watch the sugar content of any cranberry supplements).