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Originally published Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Dog's pit stops can burn lawn

Pet tip: What to do and not to do to reduce lawn burns from dog urine.

Birmingham (Ala.) News

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Of course, you love your dog.

You just don't love what she leaves behind — as in urine burns that turn your green grass yellow, then brown.

"Female dog spot disease" (as it's not-so-affectionately known to horticulturists) is caused by nitrogen in urine. The scalding is generally attributed to female dogs because they tend to empty their bladders in one spot. Male dogs tend to dribble to mark territory.

Nitrogen isn't a bad thing. It is, after all, a major component of lawn fertilizer. But too much nitrogen — in fertilizer or urine — can burn your lawn.

"It's no different than a heavy fertilizer spill," says Trey Rogers, author of "Lawn Geek: Tips and Tricks for the Ultimate Turf From the Guru of Grass" (NAL Trade, 2007) and professor of crop and soil sciences at Michigan State University.

Scalding is more of a problem when grass is dormant or dry, Rogers says. That's because water dilutes the nitrogen. So one solution to scalding, then, is to hose urine spots as soon as possible.

"All you're trying to do is flush those salts [i.e., nitrogen] down through the soil," Rogers says.

Another option for reducing lawn burns is to designate a specific area for your dog to use.

While some people add ingredients, such as tomato juice or baking soda, to their dog's food to change the pH balance of its urine, it's not a good idea. The alkalinity or acidity of urine has little, if anything, to do with scalding.

"It doesn't work, and vets say it [could] hurt the dog," Rogers says.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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