Nevada's Original Cannabis Resource // Since 2014
By: Stephanie Shehan
Brings Health Support to the Forefront for Animals r. Johanna Meijia-Fava has a PhD in marine mammal ophthalmology, and is a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband Joe, along with guidance from her mom, Dr. Norma Pestano co-founded Animal Necessity, a company at the forefront of the development and promotion of holistic, protocol-based approaches to animal wellness. I was extremely fortunate to secure some time with Dr. Jo and her husband to learn about the research they are doing using their newest product line, BlackFin HEMP for zoos, aquariums, and companion animals. STEPHANIE SHEHAN: Hey Dr. Jo and Joe… It is so nice to meet you, I am extremely interested in the work you guys are doing with marine mammals as well as other animals. Tell me Dr. Jo, how did you get into the medical field? JOHANNA MEJIA-FAVA, PhD, DVM (DR. JO): It was actually because of my mom, Dr. Norma Pestano. She is the matriarch of this company and my inspiration. With over forty years of experience in medicine, she created these same supplement formulations for humans. We then worked with her to create similar formulations for animals. She completed medical school in the Dominican Republic and when she moved to the United States, because of the language barrier, in lieu of taking the board, she dedicated ten years to research in the Amazon over in Peru. She was one of the first doctors to work with Cats Claw. She studied along with Cornell University the various properties of the plant that support the normal inflammatory response. And she, at the time, was lucky enough to meet a doctor named Eloy Rodriguez who coined the term “zoopharmacognosy.” Studying under this doctor, she was able to see how different natural plant remedies worked in animals and then make the necessary adjustments to create human versions of the same remedies.
SS: She sounds amazing. And how awesome that you guys get to continue what she started. Tell me, how did you guys meet?
JOE FAVA: Johanna and I met in New York when we were sixteen years old. I worked for a media company after college and Jo was helping with her family’s business. Around 2005, Jo landed her first job as a marine mammal veterinarian . The head doctor there was very holistic-minded. Ironically, one of Jo’s jobs was to drive to GNC once a week and purchase the supplements they needed for a whale. That got us to thinking that possibly Jo’s mom’s supplements could work for the whale. We spoke with the doctor about creating a protocol around Dr. Pestano’s supplements and he gave the approval. That whale is still on our supplements now eighteen years later. She was patient number one for us and she is actually the oldest living whale in human care. We just saw her a couple weeks ago and she looks amazing. SS: I am assuming your work with this whale is what started your company. JF: Yes. We started working with zoos and aquariums and at that time, there were no companies making specialty products for zoo and aquarium animals. Plenty of companies were making multivitamins for animals but no special formulations. Understanding holistically what is going on from the cells out is necessary when creating specialized protocols, especially for different mammals and other animals. Our supplements are tailored to various needs such as immune system support, digestive system support and calming . Those in the zoo and aquarium space understood what we were offering and they very much appreciated it. We grew to become the number one provider of specialty supplements for animals.
allergies so we were flown in to evaluate and help the dog. It is awesome to see zoos and aquariums all over the world start to move away from pharmaceutical drugs for animals. SS: It sounds like there is a lot of crossover between what works with humans and what works with animals. DR. JO: There is. Our line of supplements is based entirely on my mom’s line of human supplements. Obviously, dosing has changed. And, certain plant ingredients change based on certain toxicities to animals. But for most of our products, because they are working on a cellular basis, they are very complementary to both humans and animals. SS: That is so interesting. Recently, you guys have begun work using hemp as a supplement for these animals. I know that all mammals have an endocannabinoid system but what about other animal species? JF: Yes, and what’s interesting is that they have really only been studying the endocannabinoid system for about the last 38 years or so. Even jellyfish have an endocannabinoid system.
SS: Do you work with all types of animals?
DR. JO: That’s right. Just as we have an immune system or a respiratory system, we all have an endocannabinoid system.
JF: Yes, we work with marine mammals, avian, reptiles, fish and all kinds of other amazing species. My wife is a leader, not only degree wise but also ethically. She gets calls 24 hours a day from zoos around the world with questions about species I’ve never even heard of. Last week, we received a call about a painted dog who has
SS: The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines the endocannabinoid system as a “widespread neuromodulatory system that plays important roles in central nervous system (CNS) development, synaptic plasticity, and the response to endogenous and environmental insults.” According to NCBI, “The ECS is comprised