Yes, Dog Pee does Kill Trees
Most urban dwellers love the look of trees in a city. Trees not only add real estate values to our neighborhoods, they cool our homes in the summer and make our city an aestheticly beautiful place where we can live happy and healthy lives under their oxygen-giving leaves. The beauty of a tree lined street attracts new businesses to vibrant shopping corridors and define entire neighborhoods. Numerous studies have shown that trees in proximity to neighborhoods even make people who live there happier – quantifiable. (Do you want a tree planted in front of your house for free? It’s simple, fill out an application.)
As a “mom” to two city-living dogs (and owner of a large dog walking service in Philadelphia), I also happen to be a graduate of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders program. It’s safe to say I love dogs AND trees. I hear the same question a lot, “Does dog urine really kill trees?” Unfortunately (for the dogs and the trees), yes. Dog urine kills trees. There is no doubt about it. Let’s learn more about tree botany and what you can do to save the trees in your neighborhood and how to be a responsible dog owner.
How Urine Kills Trees: Urine is highly acidic. Simply put, dogs’ urine “burns” the tree’s trunk to the point that the tree becomes susceptible to diseases, pests, dehydration and nutrient loss. The bark is a tree’s protective barrier. Repeated hits with urine basically causes an “open wound” right on the base on the tree. Since the bombardment from pee is semi-constant in an urban environment, the trees never have a chance to heal from past damage. These wounds open the trees up to a slew of diseases that they just can’t fight off. (Female dogs do just as much harm even if they aren’t “hitting the trunk.” Repeated hits of urine in the soil will change the soil’s pH and kill the tree via the roots.)
The next time you go for a walk, take a look at the trees in the city and look around the base of the tree. Many of them show signs of deep fissures in the bark 2 feet up from the ground, cracks along the trunk and some even show signs of bark literally peeling back just above the ground. Others are literally bleached white from urine. (Check the next time you go for a walk. Most of the damage is in the lower 2 feet of the trunk. If you’re a tree-lover, you might start to panic. Try not to panic, we’re trying to raise awareness!)
It’s easy to think, “Surely a little pee from my dog can’t do harm to a huge tree.” Think about it like this. Your dog “marks” the tree, then another dog walks by 10 minutes later, smells your dog’s scent and hits it again, 15 minutes later and another dog walks by, hits it again. This goes on day in and day out, 365 days a year. Some trees are hit more than others and a cycle begins. One dog’s scent ends up on a tree and others just keep marking it, over and over until the tree is compromised. (Compare our urban trees to those in a healthy forest, where one might get peed on once every few weeks by a randomly passing hiking dog… Our trees are hit multiple times, daily.)
Saplings are the most vulnerable, but plenty of really old trees in the city are showing signs of urine poisoning too. What can you do to help? It’s simple. Redirect your dog when he/she is headed for a tree. Teach your dog to “curb it.”
It’s easy to think that when you see an angry sign posted on a tree that says, “NO DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!” that the person is just anti-dog. Perhaps they’re just pro-tree? As urban dwelling dog parents, we have to always remember that we have to share our urban space with other folks. Some like dogs. Some don’t. Some might like dogs, but also like their tree out front. Regardless of their preference toward our furry friends, if we, as responsible dog owners, do our part to be great neighbors – we make our city a better place.
Stay tuned for articles in the next few days on:
Wondering how to teach your dog to “Curb It?” We’ll tell you.
Have a tree out front that you want to protect? We’ll tell you how to do it.
We love Philly. We love dogs. We love trees.
(All of the photos taken shows were taken in 2 square blocks in Bella Vista, within a three minute walk of each other.)