People love their pets. So, when something goes wrong with a dog or cat, it can be tough just to sit by and watch them suffer.
One Sioux Falls couple's love for their Italian Greyhound with diabetes has led to an amazing discovery.
Vincent or Vinny, as he's affectionately called, is a pretty active 14-year-old dog. But, four short years ago that wasn't the case.
"We started noticing him drinking all this water. He would go over to his bowl and drink the whole thing down to nothing," Nancy Carlson said.
Vinny was diagnosed with diabetes by his vet Dr. Sam Lukens and put on insulin.
"We kept increasing it based on what Dr. Lukens recommended and we would go back each time and the same things. It wasn't working at all. He was what they call brittle. A brittle diabetic doesn't respond to any insulin at all," Nancy said.
"He was losing weight and becoming increasingly lethargic. He was one of those you thought, 'This dog is going to go out the back door,' if you know what I mean," Lukens said.
"He had gone blind and lost a third of his body weight and one night I was just holding him and he was just this little lamb laying on my lap and I just thought, 'Oh, we're going to lose him.' I said to Kameron, 'You've just got to do something,'" Nancy said.
And the next morning, her husband did.
"I woke up and I just had the answer. I do have somewhat of a background. My father was a type 2 diabetic who took insulin and he didn't do so well with it," Kameron Carlson said.
Kameron's answer involved a trip to the health food store.
"Our kitchen became a compounding pharmacy for a while. And he put this thing together and he fed it to the dog and the dog actually ate it," Nancy said.
A few days later, Vinny wasn't so thirsty any more.
"And we took him in to Dr. Lukens and his blood sugar was normal. And we couldn't believe it and neither could he," Nancy said.
"I thought it was hocus pocus. I really did. I thought, 'Come on Kameron, '" Lukens said.
But there was no denying the medical evidence in the dog.
"It seems to make the body's cells more sensitive to insulin," Lukens said.
"We saw it worked so well and Dr. Lukens tried it on a couple of his dogs and then we knew we had something when it worked on several dogs and it was very unusual and different and we decided we'd better get it patented as well," Kameron said.
The Carlson's product, which they call, "Dia-Treaties" has now been used in 50 dogs in three states. And all diabetic dogs, brittle or not, were able to reduce their insulin use by 15 to 67 percent.
"Every single one of the dogs that has gone on the program and done it properly has been helped. It didn't matter what breed they were or anything," Nancy said.
With the remarkable results the Carlson's product has produced in dogs, the next obvious question is, does it have the potential to help people with diabetes?
"Right now we are working with medical professionals to develop a nutritional bar for diabetics. We think it's exciting because it’s maybe one of the only nutritional bars that have results in animals behind it for four years," Nancy said.
"The more I research it, dogs and people are very similar in their diabetes. I know it will work to some degree," Kameron said.
And while the research in people is ongoing, the Carlsons went to the South Dakota office of economic development to get a grant and a loan to market the product, right now, to veterinarians.
"If you have something that's been given to you like this, you just can't sit on it. You need to do something with it. You need to do the right thing," Kameron said.
While they don't know for sure where Vintek Nutrition, named after Vinny, of course, will take them, they know it's all been worth it to help animals, including their own.
"He's a little old man, but he's a happy little old man," Nancy said.
"We've had him an extra four or five years because of this. That's a lot in dog years," Kameron said.
While the Carlson's product is available online, they say it should only be given to dogs under the supervision of a vet.