Twelve Perilous Pets Nominated for VPI Hambone Award for Most Unusual Pet Insurance Claim of the Year

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Public to Vote for Winner of 2012 VPI Hambone Award; Voting Open September 12-25.

After reviewing more than one million pet insurance claims received by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) over the past year, 12 were worthy of nomination for the VPI Hambone Award honoring the “Most Unusual Claim of the Year.” VPI, the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, will honor one of its more than 485,000 insured pets with the fourth annual VPI Hambone Award. Nominees include a dachshund-terrier mix that was found buried alive by firefighters, a potbellied pig that accidentally overdosed on human medication, and a cat that got stuck in a car engine and went on a wild 15-mile ride (all 12 nominees are highlighted below). The winner will be determined by the public, who are encouraged to cast their vote at or on VPI's Facebook page. Voting is open from Sept. 12-25 and will decide which perilous pet will take home the esteemed honor.

Named originally after a dog that ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while stuck in a refrigerator, the VPI Hambone Award has since been presented for three equally unusual claims. Past winners include Ellie, a Labrador retriever who gobbled up an entire beehive and its thousands of inhabitants; Lulu, a hungry bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and piece of a basketball; and Harley, a pug that ate, and subsequently passed, more than 100 rocks.

Following are brief summaries of the 12 unusual claims nominated for the 2012 Hambone Award. All nominated pets made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible treatment expenses. For a more detailed account of each claim, photos of the nominees, or to cast a vote, visit

  •     July 2011 – Ginger the golden retriever (Rocky Hill, Conn.). Sniffing turned snippy when a feisty snapping turtle chomped down on Ginger’s nose, causing quite a scare and lacerations to her muzzle.
  •     August 2011 – Havee the Havanese (Pompton Plains, N.J.). A cleaning spree resulted in a trip to the local animal hospital when Havee’s tail was run over by the vacuum after he fell asleep under the dining room table.
  •     September 2011 – Kei the shiba inu (Wadswoth, Ill.). An escalator excursion landed Kei in the animal hospital when one of his paws got caught on the escalator grates.
  •     October 2011 – Peanut the dachshund-terrier mix (Sicklerville, N.J.). A squabble with a skunk ended with more than just a bad stench in the air when Peanut was found buried alive by firefighters.
  •     November 2011 – Baxter the domestic longhair cat (Seattle, Wash.). This feline fell from the 11th Floor and lived to purr about it.
  •     December 2011 – Crispy Bacon the potbellied pig (Las Vegas, Nev.). Crispy’s owners always joke that their potbellied pig is their little “rock star,” but they never expected he would take it to the extreme until he accidentally overdosed on human medication.
  •     January 2012 – Tomis the cocker spaniel (Sacramento, Calif.). Tomis required surgery to remove an almond he accidentally snorted while snacking at a holiday party.
  •     February 2012 – Major the Labrador retriever (Minneapolis, Minn.). A game of fetch ended with a trip to the veterinarian when Major ran full-speed into a rock the same size and shape as his toy.
  •     March 2012 – Nathan the miniature dachshund (Pittsburgh, Penn.). An altercation with a vicious muskrat caused a severe bite wound dangerously close to Nathan’s jugular.
  •     April 2012 – Bayley the Labrador retriever (Lothian, Md.). While playing inside with his furry friends, Bayley shattered a 55-gallon aquarium that left a two-inch gash on his chest.
  •     May 2012 – Beretta the Labrador retriever (Bryan, Texas). Beretta had to be rushed to the emergency animal hospital after her owner found her hanging from a barbecue grill by her collar.
  •     June 2012 – Pebbles the domestic shorthair cat (Rio Linda, Calif.). After getting stuck in a car engine, Pebbles went on a 15-mile road trip before being taken to a veterinary hospital to treat lacerations and a broken jaw.

“Now in its fourth year, the VPI Hambone Award continues to remind us of how unpredictable our pets can be,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “While incidents like a cat falling out of an 11th story window, or a Lab shattering a 55-gallon aquarium certainly aren’t everyday occurrences, they show that unusual accidents do happen and how important it is that pet owners are prepared for the unexpected.”

Note to editors: Digital images of the VPI Hambone Award and 2012 Hambone Award nominees are available. Send requests to: dolson(at)petinsurance(dot)com.

About VPI Hambone Award
The VPI Hambone Award is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to rescue him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. This quirky title was first awarded in 2009 to Lulu, a hungry English bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and a piece of a basketball. The VPI Hambone Award and these unusual pet insurance claims have since helped educate the public about the unexpected mishaps that can affect household pets. Stories and pictures of the VPI Hambone Award nominees are available at

About Veterinary Pet Insurance
With more than 485,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency (VPI) is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies and is the oldest and largest pet health insurance company in the United States. Since 1982, VPI has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers.

VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. CareGuard® coverage for routine care is available for an additional premium. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, one in three Fortune 500 companies offers VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are offered and administered by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and DVM Insurance Agency in all other states. Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA, an A.M. Best A rated company (2012); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2012). Pet owners can find VPI Pet Insurance on Facebook or follow @VPI on Twitter. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

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Dennis Olson
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