Labrador Retrieves Rock and Racks Up Costly Veterinary Bill

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual February Claim

Brea, Calif. (March 27, 2012) – Almost every day, Joseph Burns and his sporting dog Major visit an open field near their home in Minneapolis, Minn., for a game of fetch with dummy birds. On a recent snowy Saturday, however, their usual play date took an unexpected turn when the eager Labrador retriever ran full-speed into a rock the same size and shape of his toy. Shocked and perplexed, Major shook his head and brought the dummy back to his owner, his mouth bleeding from the collision. The game of fetch that landed this 1-year-old Lab in the emergency animal hospital has also earned him the title of "Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

“Major is a sporting dog and a pretty intense hunter,” said Joseph. “We had been throwing the dummy around for a while, but I noticed that his eyes had locked on to something else. That’s when he lunged, full-speed and mouth open, into the rock. When he got back to me, there was blood in his mouth. He had cut both of his canine teeth in half and three others were sliced down to the pulp.”

Unsure about the severity of Major’s condition, his owner rushed him to the nearest emergency animal hospital. According to Joseph, the veterinarian on staff was concerned that the impact of Major’s accident could have caused trauma to his brain. Additionally, the extensive damage to his teeth would require surgery within 24-hours. The veterinarian took X-rays and administered pain medication before scheduling Major for surgery early the next morning. Fortunately, Major did not exhibit signs of brain damage but the surgeon who operated on his mouth was unable to save the broken teeth. After having five teeth extracted, the Lab was sent home to rest and has since made a full recovery.

“Major’s incident is a great reminder for pet owners to be aware of the dangers that can occur during outdoor activities. Whether your pet is a well trained performance animal or your loveable companion, it is important to have a plan in place for covering unexpected treatment costs.” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “As the weather gets warmer, more people will be spending time outdoors with their pets and our data shows a clear increase in the number of pet accidents and injuries during the spring and summer months.”

Major’s incident was one of more than 80,000 claims received in the month of February by VPI, the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, and was selected by VPI employees as the most unusual of the bunch. Honorable mentions in February included a dachshund that became constipated after ingesting toilet paper; a mixed breed dog that wrangled with a mole; and a Labrador retriever that ate 14 chocolate Power Bars and their wrappers. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

As the most unusual claim submitted in in February, Major will be in the running for the 2012 VPI Hambone Award. Other nominees include Tomis the cocker spaniel who had a whole almond surgically removed from his nose and Crispy Bacon the potbellied pig who overdosed on human medication. For more information about the VPI Hambone Award, or to read about all of the 2012 nominees, visit

Note to editors: Digital images of Major are available upon request. Send requests to

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 is the No. 1 veterinarian-recommended pet health insurance company and is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies. Providing pet owners with peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers and an advocate of pet health education. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Optional CareGuard® coverage is available for routine care.

Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 2,700 companies nationwide offer VPI Pet Insurance as a voluntary employee benefit. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and in all other states by National Casualty Company, an A+15 rated company in Madison, Wis. 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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