Animal Urine Damage in Turfgrass
by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Maintaining a nice, uniformly green lawn can be a bit of a challenge when Fido does his business on it. As many of you know, turfgrass can be severely damaged by animal urine. Fido may not be the only one to blame as those darker green and/or brown patches can also be caused by visitors in your yard such as deer, fox and geese.
There are several common turfgrass diseases that may be confused with urine damage. A few are summer patch, dollar spot and necrotic ring spot. You will be able to distinguish urine damage from the diseased as there will be no cottony mycelium apparent during the early morning and the dying leaf blades will not look water-soaked or mat down like those that are affected by a fungal infection. A dead, brown center surrounded by a profusely green turf ring is a sign of classic urine damage.
The salts contained in animal urine are capable of killing turfgrass when it is deposited in a large amount in one location. Female dogs take the brunt of the blame due to their squatting nature when urinating, therefore depositing a large amount of urine to one spot. Damage is usually most severe on dry, unfertilized turfgrass because the turf responds quickly to the urine’s readily available nitrogen.
There are a few actions that can be taken to minimize the damage. Keep the pet off of the most visible part of the lawn. Train Fido to use a not so visible part of the lawn that is his or her “area”. Watering the area that Fido uses will help minimize the damage but you may still have the greening effect. Keep your turfgrass in good shape. Mow at a height of 2 to 3 inches and properly fertilize and hydrate your lawn so that it can recover from any damage. Fertilized turfgrass can help keep the area affected by urine from being dramatically different in color from the rest of the lawn.
There are some products available that claim they can repel animals from doing their business on an area. However, they have not been proven to be effective. As far as keeping wildlife at bay, good luck. About the only thing that works for me is a big old fence!
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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