Skip Richter, based in Houston, is a popular speaker for garden clubs, Master Gardener programs, and other gardening events across Texas. He has...Full Bio


Fixing “Canine Urine Burn”

I’ve known how to fix “canine pee disease” since I started working at Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture years ago.

In 1990, when I bought my first-ever house, I had two dogs - a Lab mix and a Lhasa apso – and they were both technically indoor dogs. But it was strange to me that the smaller dog’s urine burned the grass in my lawn more than urine from the Lab.

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Thankfully, a veterinarian buddy of mine taught me that I needed to focus on the dogs first, then I could fix the burnt spots. Also, a colleague in the Soil & Crops Sciences Department explained that the smaller spots would eventually come back greener than they were originally - the acid and urea, which caused the burn, could actually green the grass up. However, if a dog does their liquid business in the same spot every time, the green-up will likely not happen, unless you follow the protocols below.

First change your dog’s diet based on a veterinarian’s recommendation. Next, figure out a way to flush the dog’s system - acid and urea build up in indoor dogs that are pent up all day. And “flushing” may be easier than you think. For one day - at least 12 full hours – the dog should stay outdoors and be furnished with an endless supply of drinking water.

In 1990, I provided both of my dogs with three huge stainless-steel bowls of water, strategically placed throughout the backyard. We also changed the dogs’ diet, and we have not suffered from the issue since.

Now, if you have just a tiny spot here or there, or if you just can’t imagine leaving your precious puppy outdoors for a full day or changing their diet, you could try just fixing the spots. However, if your dog pees in the same place over and over, just trying to make repairs may be an effort in futility.


I fix them by rakeing out the brown grass, then doing a compost top-dressing (another a good reason to always have a bag of quality spreadable compost on hand.) Finally, I saturate the spot with soil activator.

I’ve learned that some people simply compost the burnt area. Others just use soil activator to break down the high levels of urea and acid, and that might do the job with small spots. I’ve also found that some people simply use a genuine enriched topsoil for a fix – it’s loamy with lots of organic matter. But never, ever use just sand to fix such spots - you’ll create a future drainage problem.

And while I don’t want to offend my veterinarian friends, you really don’t need to visit a vet these days to effectively change a dog’s diet. We are blessed with many feed and pet food stores in this region, and they all sell a wide variety of “natural” and “100% organic” products which can change a dog’s diet enough to reduce those high levels of acid and urea. Many stores have knowledgeable personnel who can point you to foods that will help achieve your goal.

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