Facebook Feedback Saves Winnie the Pooch, Earning Her the 5th Annual VPI Hambone Award

Public Selects Most Unusual Pet Insurance Claim of the Year

Brea, Calif. (Oct. 16, 2013) – An ingested bag of toxic onion rings, timely Facebook feedback, and life-saving care at a Boston-area animal hospital led to Winnie ‘the pooch’ capturing the 2013 VPI Hambone Award by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, and member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies. The runner-up in the public vote was Natasha, an Oakland, Calif., cat who went through an entire washing machine cycle and lived to purr about it. The annual Hambone Award was created by VPI to educate the public about unexpected mishaps that befall household pets.

For their outstanding treatment of Winnie, the Hyannis Animal Hospital in West Yarmouth, Mass., will receive a $10,000 VPI-funded award through the Veterinary Care Foundation to treat pets whose owners could not otherwise afford treatment.

Winnie’s tale occurred last March, when Kyle Bowser of Barnstable, Mass., returned home to find an empty two-pound bag of frozen onion rings and a very guilty-looking mixed-breed pup.

Saved by Social Media: Winnie’s Story

Kyle and her husband rushed out of the house to pick up their daughter without realizing they left a bag of groceries that contained a two-pound bag of frozen onion rings on the counter. When the Bowsers returned home, they found an empty frozen onion ring bag on the floor and Winnie with a very guilty expression on her face.

Thinking the onion ring consumption could lead to nothing more than a stomach ache; Kyle’s husband posted the photo on Facebook. Fortunately, a friend who viewed the photo pointed out how harmful onions can be to dogs, leading the Bowsers to research the toxicity of onions.

“I did some quick investigating and found out that onions aren’t just bad for dogs, they are extremely toxic and can cause anemia,” said Kyle. “After reading that, I immediately called the Pet Poison Helpline, and they instructed me to take Winnie to the veterinarian.”

At the animal hospital, the veterinarian induced vomiting and fed Winnie charcoal to absorb the toxins. While the veterinarian wasn’t worried initially when he examined Winnie, upon learning that she had ingested the entire-two-pound bag of frozen onion rings, he grew concerned that the ingredients in the onions could cause damage to her red blood cells.

Although Winnie’s blood tests did indicate initial signs of anemia, fortunately, Kyle and her husband’s mad dash to the veterinarian prevented any long-term damage from occurring.

“In extreme cases of onion poisoning, the pet may need to be hospitalized for several days,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary officer for VPI. “The Bowsers made the correct decision to immediately take Winnie to an animal hospital to receive treatment. Winnie and all of the other 2013 VPI Hambone Award nominees illustrate the need for pet owners to always be prepared for unexpected events.”

As the 2013 VPI Hambone Award winner, Winnie will receive a bronze trophy in the shape of a ham, as well as a VPI swag bag filled with toys, treats and an emergency pet kit. VPI swag bags also will be given to the following noteworthy competitors:

Second Place – Natasha the Siberian Forest cat (Oakland, Calif.). Natasha was treated for shock and hypothermia after her owner’s roommate accidentally completed a wash cycle with the curious cat inside the machine. (Natasha was treated at VCA Bay Area Veterinary Specialists in San Leandro, Calif.)

Third Place – Macie the Labrador retriever (El Cajon, Calif.). Macie was out on a bike ride with her owner’s son when the leash got caught on the front tire of the bicycle causing it to run over and fracture the pup’s rear left leg. (Macie was treated at Pet Emergency & Specialty Center in La Mesa, Calif.)

The 11 nominees were chosen from more than 1.1 million claims VPI receives annually. They were considered among other uncommon medical claims and selected by VPI as the most unusual of the bunch. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. More than 6,000 votes were cast at www.VPIHamboneAward.com from Sept. 24 – Oct. 11, 2013 to determine the winner. For more details about the 11 VPI Hambone Award nominees, to read their claims, and see their photos, visit www.VPIHamboneAward.com.

Note to editors: Digital images of Winnie and all 11 VPI Hambone Award nominees are available upon request. Send requests to: dolson@petinsurance.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 VPIHamboneAward.com.

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

With more than 500,000 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 petinsurance.com.

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