Darrell Blackwelder: Pet urine problems

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2024

I was walking along in my neighborhood, admiring the fescue lawns. Lawns are green and lush with the intermittent rainfall and mild temperatures. I happen to notice in one lawn there were a couple of very bright yellow spots, about the size of a dinner plate. I knew it was probably not a brown patch. It’s a little too early for this fungal lawn disease. Or maybe the owner had spilled some chemical or spilled some fertilizer. No, it was the result of dog urine. Many in our neighborhood, like other pet owners, like to take their dogs on a daily walk. Relieving themselves is a common activity while taking the pups out for a walk.

Dog urine has a very high concentration of nitrogen. When it is released in a small area, it acts just as a high-nitrogen fertilizer does when spilled or applied incorrectly and burns the grass. The area to the outer edge of the turf will be dark green and the middle area yellow/brown. Female dogs tend to squat and create more of a problem with urine burns than males. Males like to urinate in multiple locations, leaving their “mark” or message for other canines joining them along the walk. The high nitrogen content in urine kills the grass. There are a couple of ways to help with the problem.

After your dog urinates, take a bucket of water or garden hose, and wet the area as quickly as possible with ample water to dilute the nitrogen.

If the fescue turns yellow/brown, don’t replace it immediately. Continue to water for a few days. The nitrogen may become diluted enough so the turf will return to normal growth.

If the turf remains yellow brown for a couple of weeks, you will have to replant. The most realistic way to control the problem is to have a designated area for pets to relieve themselves. It will take some training, but is well worth the effort.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.