San Diego Spotlight


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By Judy Macomber

Getting Down to the Dirt

For years, we’ve been dealing with water shortages and the challenges of keeping our plants alive in our increasingly dry soil conditions. This year, with all the early rains, we may think all will be well now, and this year, we’ll have no problems. Well, it might not be that easy. We’re still in a bit of a “loan default” on our water. A few good rainstorms don’t fix years of past drought conditions. Yes, some accumulated rainfall inch totals look good this year, but we’re still living in San Diego County, and the climate here is semi-arid. That means it will never be like Seattle … and many of us think that’s a good thing! We must continue water-wise practices in the way we live and what we grow here.

However, along with the rains comes, hopefully, the “rebirth” of some of your plants and trees. The dirt right now may still be soft (perfect for a little “doggie digging”), but it might need some help. During some of the storms, you might have seen small rivulets of floating topsoil running over your walkways and washing down slopes. If you did, you’ll need to replenish that with good organic mulch, or your garden could be back in trouble for the summer ahead. You need good dirt!

Doggies In Your Dirt

However, if you have pets around, be sure to choose your mulch carefully. Cocoa bean mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, just like chocolate, and it can be toxic to pets. It smells good, and if a pet is attracted and ingests it (especially puppies, who tend to eat just about anything), the results can be deadly. While most pets probably won’t eat it, cocoa bean mulch contains one of the strongest concentrations of theobromine—much stronger than chocolate—so it’s very dangerous if they do. Mulch blends may also contain insecticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, which might be toxic to animals. Always read the labels!

Homemade Mulch

You can make mulch from shredded bark, wood chips, and leaves from pet-friendly sources. These ingredients insulate the soil, slow down erosion and evaporation, and keep the dirt from developing that “rock hard” compaction that makes planting difficult.

If you’d like more information about local composting ideas, you can call the Solana Center “Rotline” at (760) 436-7986.

Need a Jump Start?

However, if you lack the time, patience, or space to compost, remember that San Diego County has 8 locations where you can purchase many varieties of low-cost compost, from Oceanside to Lakeside and several cities in between. In addition, you’ll find lots of good information on good soil and water management and can even sign up for free composting workshops through the county website at You can also check out the Master Gardener Association of San Diego County for workshops and seminars—visit their website at

With careful mulch selection, you can safely provide a nutritious buffet for your yard and garden while still protecting your pets. So go ahead, plant some vegetables that you and your pet can both enjoy, and reap the benefits of low water bills and healthier plants for years to come!

Judy Macomber publishes Pet Lovers Publications, a local map and guide for pet owners.

Hi-Tech Goes to the Dogs, Literally!

Identification of lost and found pets has evolved over the years. ID tags were historically one of the only ways to identify a pet, and they’re still a must-use, but now there are various ways to show your pet belongs to you.

Hi, My Name Is …

You can purchase a simple ID tag from a local pet supply store and have a pets’ name and telephone number engraved on it or purchase a tag with the latest and greatest technological advances, including QR codes and tracking software.

Higher tech ID systems allow you to track your dog through the Global Positioning System (GPS) using one of the many GPS-enabled pet tag tracking systems. Many of these set up a “safe zone” around your home and alert you if the dog breaches that invisible barrier. Once on the lam, your dog can be tracked, as the system shows your dog’s current location on a map.

Most veterinary hospitals provide rabies tags when your pet is vaccinated. These tags are trackable, but the vet is the point of contact, so their office must be open for someone to locate an owner through the rabies tag.

Most cities require by law that dogs and cats are licensed and will issue a tag for any licensed pet. Unfortunately, the compliance rate is often as low as 30 percent, with most pets going unregistered.

Along Came the Microchip

Agencies like the San Diego County Department of Animal Services have been microchipping animals since the 1990s; San Diego County alone has a total of 310,748 microchips currently in its database. If a lost pet in brought into the Department of Animal Services, an animal control officer can scan that pet for a microchip with a universal scanner, which detects all the various types of microchips. If one is detected, the officer can search for the microchip number in multiple microchip databases to try to locate the owner information. We’ve all heard the wonderful stories of animals being reunited with their owners years after having disappeared, all thanks to that tiny piece of technology between the animal’s shoulder blades. As an animal control officer for San Diego County, Animal control officers in San Diego County have reunited dogs missing for more than five years with their families, confirms Daniel De Sousa, Director, Department of Animal Services, County of San Diego.

None of these methods are foolproof, because a tag or collar can come off and sometimes a microchip cannot be read.

Facial Recognition Software for Pets

Facial recognition is the latest technology being used to reunite lost dogs with their owners. Finding Rover is an online service and app created to help reunite dogs with their owners using facial recognition technology. Founder John Polimeno worked with specialists at the University of Utah to create the software used by Finding Rover.

With this free, user-friendly service, you simply take a photograph of your dog’s face, upload your dog’s image into the Finding Rover database, and link that photograph to your contact information. If your dog escapes, you update your dog’s status on Finding Rover as “lost,” and the app will notify others in your area to keep an eye out for your pooch. If a Good Samaritan finds your dog, all they need do is upload a photograph of the dog to the app, and the technology will match up your “lost” photo with their “found” photo and connect the two of you.

When the San Diego County Department of Animal Services found out about this technology, it quickly saw the value of such a tool. The staff is proud to say that they were the first animal sheltering organization in the world to utilize the Finding Rover facial recognition app. Every dog that comes into any San Diego shelter is photographed immediately. The photos are then uploaded to Finding Rover to be scanned and entered into its database.

Last year, a citizen found an elderly Shiba Inu wandering down her street. Aware of the Finding Rover app, she took a photograph of the dog, and uploaded it, but the dog was not in the database. The following day, the owner visited the shelter looking for his dog and saw posters advertising Finding Rover. The owner told his daughter about the app, and she uploaded a photo of their missing Roxy. After the person who found Roxy delivered her to the shelter, the staff quickly recognized the dog from the lost report on Finding Rover, and input her photo. Roxy is now safely back at home.

Most of us agree that dog is man’s best friend. And these days, there are times that technology is a dog’s best friend. For more information regarding Finding Rover, visit

Acupuncture & Pets

Excerpted from, Sit. Stay. Heal. In-Home Integrative Veterinary Medicine

By Jessica Cantrell, DVM, PhD, cVMA

Medical acupuncture is the placement of small, sterile needles into specific points on the body. The points chosen for needle placement have been scientifically proven to correspond to underlying structures, including nerves, vessels, and myofascial planes.

In the hands of an experienced, licensed veterinarian, acupuncture is a very safe treatment option, with no harmful side effects or drug interactions. While acupuncture is not without sensation, the goal is to create a relaxing, enjoyable experience for our animal patients. The vast majority of patients enjoy their treatments without sedation or restraint.

Highlighting Dr. Zoran Djordjevich

Mohnacky Animal Hospitals in Carlsbad

Growing up on a farm in Serbia, Dr. Zoran Djordjevich knew he wanted to become a veterinarian. He earned his DVM from the University of Belgrade. After serving as an associate at the Royal Veterinary College in London for many years, he immigrated to the United States in 1994.

Settling in the Golden State, Dr. Zoran prepared for his boards at University of California Davis before obtaining his California license and practicing for a few years in Sacramento. In 1998, he moved to the San Diego area and joined Mohnacky Animal Hospitals in Carlsbad as chief medical director. Since then, he has immersed himself in researching and developing the latest techniques for veterinary surgery, including a combination of stem cell and orthopedic procedures, and uses his integrative approach with animals to provide exceptional care.

“Obviously, my patients can’t talk to me, but over the years I’ve developed a sixth sense that helps me to connect and tap into what is really going on for them, and from there, I become their advocate,” Dr. Zoran explains.

Dr. Zoran is a leader in the area of emerging orthopedic surgeries and is an internationally recognized veterinarian. He was the first to introduce the smallest Helica cup for hip replacement in 2007.

A healer at heart, Dr. Zoran has spent his entire career in the trenches of research and development for cutting-edge modalities that will help animals live longer, healthier, and happier lives. He’s been using stem cell therapy for the past 12 years and supplementing standard treatments with platelet-rich plasma, marigold oil, and probiotics to help prevent and enhance treatments for many common pet ailments.

“We’ve been fighting a tough battle when it comes to food allergies, cancer, and chronic diseases such as autoimmune disease and diabetes,” states Dr. Zoran. “But that doesn’t mean we should give up.”

“In many instances, I have the honor of seeing my patients for their entire lives—from the day they’re born to the day they die—and I feel a huge responsibility to ensure they have the best quality of life for all their days,” he says.

Dr. Zoran knows pet parents want to keep their four-legged family members alive as long as possible, but like him, they don’t want their animals to suffer needlessly. He uses stem cells to help pets with kidney problems and spinal cord issues, and he enjoys great success in treating osteoarthritis and other joint problems to help pets lead healthier and happier lives.

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Pet Companion Mag
Pet Companion Mag
Southern California's Local Pet Magazine


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