How Animal Waste Impacts Lawn Health | TruGreen

How Does Pet Waste Affect Your Lawn’s Health?

By TruGreen October 17, 2023
Pet and owner on healthy turf

How Does Pet Waste Affect Your Lawn’s Health?

If you’re a dog owner, you may have noticed that your pup’s bathroom trips tend to coincide with the appearance of discolored grass and bare spots on your lawn. And it probably isn’t a surprise that dog urine killing grass is a common concern amongst pet owners. Short of taking your pup on several walks a day, you can’t stop them from urinating on the lawn. (And your neighbor’s pup isn’t helping, either!) There are, however, things you can do to mitigate the damage to your turf. In this guide, we’ll explain the effect dog urine and excrement can have on your grass and offer tips on how to keep your lawn lush, healthy and green. Plus, we’ll answer some common questions about pet waste and your outdoor living space.

Does Dog Pee Kill Grass?

We’ll get right to it: Yes, dog urine can kill your grass. More often, it simply burns it, causing that telltale yellow discoloration. In both cases, the damage is due to the high concentration of nitrogen in your dog’s urine. While nitrogen can be beneficial to your lawn (it’s a component of many fertilizers), too much will damage your grass — sometimes irreversibly. Dog urine burning grass can also be worsened by the presence of certain salts and highly-acidic urine.

Can Grass Recover From Dog Urine Damage?

Possibly. Whether or not a lawn will recover from dog urine damage depends on the extent of the damage. If your lawn is merely burned, the surrounding healthy grass will likely fill in the bare or burned spot with time. However, if your grass is truly dead, there’s no bringing it back to life. Generally speaking, warm-season lawns will fill in over time with proper fertilization, while cool-season lawns should be reseeded in late summer into autumn.

How To Minimize Dog Urine Damage on Your Lawn

The best way to minimize dog urine damage to your lawn is to have all dogs do their business elsewhere. Of course, that’s not always possible. Luckily, there are some lawn (and pet) care habits you can follow to help minimize the damage done by dog urine:

  • Wash away the urine: Whenever possible, irrigate the area immediately after your dog uses the bathroom. This will dilute the urine and may help prevent your lawn from turning yellow and dry, or at least reduce the damage.
  • Discourage the use of one “pee spot”: If your dog favors the same spot over and over again, it’s no longer a matter of if your grass will die — it’s when. Try to encourage Fido to mark their territory in different areas to allow affected grass time to recuperate.
  • Keep your lawn well-watered: Unhealthy, drought-stressed lawns are more susceptible to pet urine damage than healthy, lush lawns. Aim to give your lawn a total of one inch of water per week over one to two waterings.
  • Give your dog more water: Drinking plenty of water may help reduce nitrogen in dog urine via dilution, which can help minimize how much damage Fido’s output does to your lawn.
Try sawdust: An old trick to help minimize urine damage is to topdress your soil with hardwood sawdust. Over time, applying the sawdust to an area your dog uses the bathroom may help limit nitrogen burn. Keep in mind that while this DIY trick does work, it may take a few seasons to be fully effective (so you’ll want to employ other preventative measures as well). 

Is Dog Poop Good Fertilizer for Your Lawn?

Cow manure can be immensely beneficial for your lawn and other outdoor plants — it’s only natural to wonder if dog poop is good for grass, too. Sadly, the answer is no. Cows, unlike dogs, are herbivores, meaning they eat only plant matter. As such, the composition of their waste is very different from that of dogs (who, as you likely know, are omnivores). If you’re looking to fertilize your lawn, consider a TruGreen® Lawn Fertilization service. Our tailored treatments give your lawn what it needs, when it needs it — with visual results in seven to ten days.

Can Dog Poop Kill Grass?

Dog poop isn’t quite as harmful to your turf as urine, but it still has the potential to cause damage. And yes, in some cases, dog poop can kill your grass. Like urine, dog poop contains a high concentration of nitrogen, which can kill your grass if left for long enough.

Can Dog Poop Create Other Lawn Issues?

Leaving dog poop on the lawn can be a health hazard, but not in the way you think. Pet waste can attract pests, particularly fleas and ticks. Both of these outdoor insects can carry diseases dangerous to you and your pet. Further, pet waste may attract the attention of rodents and other mammals, which themselves could be carrying fleas, ticks or other nasty parasites. And, of course, dog poop can attract flies — which, while not particularly hazardous, are undoubtedly a nuisance. 

Leaving nitrogen-rich dog poop on your lawn also creates the perfect breeding ground for fungus — which can be unsightly and sometimes difficult to treat. As such, we recommend picking up your dog’s poop regularly or creating a designated (non-turf) pooping area where they can do their business.

Pet Waste and Your Lawn: Frequently Asked Questions

The internet is rife with questions about the various ways in which pet waste can impact your outdoor living space. Below, we’ll answer some of the most commonly-asked questions.

Will Baking Soda or Vinegar Neutralize Dog Urine on Grass?

No, baking soda or vinegar will not neutralize dog urine. Damage from dog urine is caused by the urine’s nitrogen content — and that’s something neither baking soda or vinegar can change. The only way to minimize the damage incurred by dog urine is by diluting the area with water as soon as possible after Fido uses the bathroom. 

How Long Does Dog Urine Stay in the Soil?

How long dog urine stays in the soil depends on several factors, including the amount of urine, your soil’s drainage, climate conditions and how often your dog relieves itself in that particular spot.

Does Dog Urine Attract Rats?

No, dog urine doesn’t attract rats — in fact, it’s often sold as a rat deterrent. However, dog poop absolutely attracts rats, as well as other unwanted pests like flies and fleas. To protect your outdoor living space against unwanted visitors, scoop poop as soon as possible after your dog uses the bathroom.

Can You Compost Dog Poop?

While you can compost dog poop, we’d advise against it: It’s a complicated (and smelly) process. Plus, if done incorrectly, there’s the potential for disease transmission. If you’re looking to compost, do so with food scraps, or buy some at your local garden center.

While nothing will outright prevent dog urine from damaging your turf, proper lawn care can make your grass stronger and more resilient. At TruGreen, we offer a range of lawn care services designed to help promote lush, healthy turf. And our science-backed treatments are tailored to address the unique needs of your grass. Compare our plans now and discover what we can do to make your outdoor space the best it can be.

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