Lucky Lab Survives Accidental Antler Ingestion

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects September's Most Unusual Claim

Brea, Calif. (Oct. 30, 2012) – After reading and hearing about the benefits of chew toys versus bones for dogs, Kendra Snurkowski of Wilmington, Del., bought her Labrador retriever puppy, Ryder, an elk antler dog chew. Kendra’s precious new pooch enjoyed playing with the antler so much that it was rare when the sound of Ryder crunching down on his favorite toy wasn’t audible in the Snurkowski household.

However, one night the elk antler went missing, and, after searching all over the house, Kendra concluded that Ryder had accidentally swallowed the chew toy. The incident led to a trip to the veterinarian, subsequently earning Ryder the title of “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

Initially, Kendra hoped the antler would pass naturally and waited to call the veterinarian, but after three days, her typically rambunctious Ryder was still not feeling well and had diarrhea. At that point, Kendra called the veterinarian who recommended bringing Ryder into the office immediately. The thought that she might have waited too long to call the veterinarian caused Kendra to become panic-stricken while she mulled over worst-case scenarios. Fortunately, the veterinary team relieved some of Kendra’s fear by reminding her how common it is for Labs to ingest foreign objects.

“The veterinarian had seen other incidents with obstructions, but never an elk antler chew toy,” said Kendra. “Ryder has always been a bit advanced for his age.”

Ryder was diagnosed with diarrhea as well as colitis due to the elk antler causing irritation to his intestines. He was given antibiotics and put on a chicken and rice diet for one week to treat the colitis, but Ryder was back to his old self in just a few days.

“Ryder’s claim shows the importance of using caution when choosing toys for your dog,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “When selecting a novel chew toy, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian. And, be sure to supervise your pet during play time to ensure the toy’s durability, and that unintended pieces are not accidentally swallowed.”

Eight-month-old Ryder continues to attempt to eat anything and everything, including his preventive plastic cone collar (while wearing it) following his neutering surgery. While Kendra has taken the necessary precautions to avoid another trip to the veterinarian since the elk antler incident, she is pleased with her decision to get pet health insurance just in case her lovable Lab finds trouble once again.

“One of the first things we decided when we made the decision to get our puppy was to get Veterinary Pet Insurance,” said Kendra. “It was a no-brainer. We knew that a Labrador puppy, full of energy and mischief, was bound to get into something serious, so we would rather spend the small amount of money each month to know that we are protected.”

Ryder’s incident was one of more than 80,000 claims received in the month of September 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 September included a kelpie that was attacked by a wild pig; a golden retriever that was exposed to a bat; and a boxer that had to have an ingested razor blade surgically removed from her stomach. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

As the most unusual claim submitted in September, Ryder will be in the running for the 2013 VPI Hambone Award. Other nominees include Chance the Labrador retriever who was butted by a goat, and Ariel the Himalayan kitten who was trapped underneath her pet parent’s garage door. For more information about the VPI Hambone Award, or to read about all of the 2013 nominees, visit

Digital images of Ryder 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 (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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