Yard in the fall

If you own pets, then you’re probably aware that their waste can be hard on your landscaping. Dead grass and brown spots can be a common and unwelcome result when your lawn doubles as a pet potty.

At first you may notice some spots on your lawn looking especially green as the nitrogen acts as a fertilizer for your grass, but as it accumulates you’ll start to notice the dog waste is actually killing it. This “urine burn” effect is from the nitrogen found in your pet’s waste. “Most of the effects are from either concentrated urine or feces, with a high concentration of wastes overloading the lawn,” says Dr. Steve Thompson, clinical associate professor at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Pet Wellness Clinic.

According to Dr. Thompson, this is the same thing that occurs when you apply too much fertilizer in one spot. The problem gets worse during dry spells, when grass is already stressed.


Luckily there are a number of ways you can prevent your lawn from going to the dogs (literally). Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you want to stop pet waste from burning your grass.

Add water. Dr. Thompson recommends adding water to dry pet food to dilute your pet’s urine, causing it to have more of a fertilizer effect and less of a burn on some grasses. “Also frequently spray water on the areas of the lawn where your pet is going, if not the whole lawn, to try and dilute some harmful parts of the urine,” says Jacob D’Aniello, cofounder and CEO of DoodyCalls.

Remove poop promptly. D’Aniello says the most important way to prevent poop problems is to pick it up in a timely manner so it doesn’t have time to sit on your lawn and harm the grass as it breaks down. Ideally pet owners should pick up waste as soon as it’s deposited, but a minimum weekly cleanup is recommended. According to D’Aniello, the best method of disposal is scooping the poop and immediately trashing it.

Be thoughtful about lawn care. “You should fertilize your lawn less or avoid fertilizing it in the area where your dog urinates to avoid overfertilization and burn,” D’Aniello says. He also suggests visiting a neighborhood home garden store and finding out which grass types in your area are the most resistant to pet waste. If there’s a type of grass that won’t be as sensitive to your pet’s pottying, try planting that in the spot where your dog relieves himself.

Designate a spot for Spot to go. Contain the effects of your pet’s waste by trying to get him to go potty in just one area. D’Aniello says there are some products that use pheromones to encourage your dog to pee in or near that area. Try using these to save the rest of your lawn and, again, avoid fertilizing these parts. You can also try having a marking post with mulch or pea gravel to give dogs a place to go without grass; this should limit the chances of burn, according to Dr. Thompson.


If you notice your grass dying due to your pet’s waste, there are some ways to help it recover.

“Watering the grass right after the dog urinates…will also dilute the urine and get a fertilizer effect rather than a burn effect,” says Dr. Thompson. “Usually urine burn will require sod or reseeding [of the area].” D’Aniello also recommends replacing the soil to help grass regrow.

By remaining vigilant in your lawn care and aware of where pets are relieving themselves, it is possible to protect and repair your lawn from the ill effects of pet waste.

More on Vetstreet.com:

* 9 Unusual Dog Breeds

* 10 Human Foods That are Dangerous to Cats and Dogs

* Why Does My Dog… Kick Grass After Pooping?