TAMPA -- Concerned about the side effects of prescription medication, entrepreneur Angela Ardolino took a holistic approach to treating her nasty case of rheumatoid arthritis.
She tried using CDB oil.
When it worked for her, she reasoned that it would have similar benefits for her senior schnauzer, Odie, who also suffered from arthritis - but couldn't find any natural products for pets in the United States.
So she set out to make her own.
After lending her support to passage of Florida's Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana, Ardolino earned a degree in CBD oil's therapeutic uses from the University of Vermont and partnered with Dr. Ashok Patel, a biochemist and essential oils expert, to found CBD Dog Health.
"Anything with a spine has an endocannabinoid system, which means any ailment that's caused by any sort of inflammation can be treated with CBD oil - it's essentially a natural anti-inflammatory," said Ardolino, who also founded Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine, Fire Flake Farm for rescue animals and Beautify the Beast, a pet grooming and boarding business.
Ardolino, 48, held an informational session Oct. 6 at the Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary in Ybor City, answering questions from the public and giving away free bags of freeze-dried salmon oil pet treats, each formulated with 3-4 milligrams of CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is an essential component of medical marijuana and derived directly from the hemp plant, according to an article on Harvard University's health blog, which said that CDB alone does not cause any sort of "high". It is separate from THC, the marijuana component recreational smokers traditionally inhale.
Ardolino is not alone in offering some form of CBD for pets. A number of companies around the nation now offer pet products that contain cannabidiol.
Tampa-based UUNetWorldBrands includes CBD treats and oils among its pet nutritional offerings. K9 Cannapaws, based in Boca Raton, manufactures organic products in Boca Raton that promises to calm animals' stress and anxiety. Much like Ardolino, K9 Cannapaws' products aim to boost immune systems, decrease inflammation and relieve pain that may result from age-related issues, breeding or other incidents.
The science behind the products, however, remain more theory than science in the view of the American Veterinary Medical Association. A recent article from the association's journal noted that researchers hoping to measure the effectiveness of CBD in pets must navigate a complicated set of federal restrictions.
However, there are some clinical studies underway, according to the association, including work by Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
"We could see this is a much-needed area of research, and whether it shows CBD helps or not, it's still very important since people are giving it to their pets," McGrath told the association.
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Still, federal law currently prohibits vets from from administering, prescribing, dispensing, or recommending cannabis for their patients according to the association.
Ardolino said she thought her dogs were the only ones suffering with issues that coulud be aided by CBD, but when she spoke to other pet owners she discovered many desired to try a CBD-related product.
Tampa pet owner Johnny Garde first noticed Ardolino's products at Beautify the Beast and asked her how they could help his dogs.
"Oskar and Molly are absolutely terrified by thunderstorms; Molly will shake uncontrollably and Oskar barks non stop," said Garde, 26. "I tried all the options to keep them calm, like over-the-counter medication and the thunder jackets, but nothing worked, so I just powered through the night, kind of resigned to the fact that Oskar was never going to stop barking."
After talking to Ardolino, Garde gave each dog a dropper of "Calm" CBD oil at the start of a thunderstorm and was stunned the results.
"Whenever a storm is starting, I give them each a dropper full of the oil, which is her product for dogs with anxieties of any kind," he said. "Molly's shaking has lessened tenfold, and Oskar no longer barks at the storms."
On her rescue farm, Ardolino treats dozens of dogs at a time.
Ardolino's goal for the future involves discovering more and more ways to treat pets safely and naturally.
"Soon this will be be on the shelf in CVS and Walgreens, places people already go to find solutions for themselves and their pets," she said. "We're always discovering new natural oils that will help with something - we just want to keep working on finding ways to help your animals when they're sick, so they can live a longer and better life."
Contact Libby Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.