Nerf Dart Ingestion Nearly Causes Kitty Calamity

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects February’s Most Unusual Claim

Brea, Calif. (March 19, 2014) – Alicia Racelis of Middletown, Del., attributes her cat, Lewes’ ability to catch and retrieve items to him growing up with her three boys who are always playing fetch with the family feline. However, Lewes’ unique skill got him into trouble last month when he ingested one of the Nerf darts the boys were playing with. The incident led to a trip to the animal hospital where Lewes underwent surgery to remove the dart, earning him the title of February’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

"Our boys were playing with their Nerf dart guns and Lewes was watching them and chasing the darts," explained Alicia. "We thought it was cute that Lew wanted to play with them, but we never thought he would eat one of the darts."

Unbeknownst to Alicia at the time, Lewes did ingest one of the darts. The next day he became sick and wasn’t interested in eating even his favorite treats. Lewes was also keeping his distance from the family, which indicated to Alicia that something must be wrong with the typically cuddly cat, so the next morning, she took him to the animal hospital.

"The veterinarian tried to feed Lewes, but didn’t have any luck, either," said Alicia. "Following that, he took an X-ray, which determined that a foreign object was blocking his small intestine and emergency surgery would be necessary to save his life."

After successful surgery, Alicia was surprised to see that what was blocking Lewes’ small intestine was a large chunk of one of the bright-green Nerf darts that he was retrieving while playing with her sons days prior. Fortunately, because of the rapid response time and immediate surgery the ingestion incident didn’t cause any permanent damage to Lewes, and he has made a full recovery.

Alicia has since removed the darts from her home, recognizing firsthand how dangerous small items can be to pets. "This was a very stressful time for our family," she said. "We were very lucky he survived this incident. I don’t know what we would do if he wasn’t here to warm our feet at night and make the boys smile when he cuddles their face to wake them."

"People typically – and justifiably – worry about their pets ingesting items such as cooked bones or inappropriate foods, but a whole host of other items around the house can be dangerous, too," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "Common items like hair bands, string, and pieces from toys, can cause serious illness in pets if accidentally ingested. Lewes’ story is the kind we love to hear about, since the Racelis family noticed Lewes’ change of behavior and immediately took him to a veterinarian."

Following the dart ingestion incident, Alicia is even more thankful that her employer, Siemens Corporation is one of the hundreds of Fortune 500 companies that offer VPI Pet Insurance as a voluntary employee benefit. Alicia was delighted to receive nearly an 85 percent reimbursement for Lewes’ claim.

"Purchasing pet insurance was the best decision we made," said Alicia. "VPI enabled us to seek the best care, freedom to make the best decisions and gave us peace of mind that Lew would be cared for all the way to the end."

Lewes' incident was one of more than 85,000 claims received in the month of February by VPI, the nation’s first 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 Labrador retriever who was hit by a snow plow, a Pomeranian who fractured her rib falling down the stairs, and a wirehaired pointing griffon who received six stitches to his left front foot after sliding into a bookcase and breaking the glass door. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

As the most unusual claim submitted in February, Lewes will be in the running for the 2014 VPI Hambone Award. Other nominees include Pierre the French bulldog who took an unplanned dip in the swimming pool at a Fourth of July party, Roxy the German shepherd who crashed into and shattered a sliding glass door, and Jack the Jack Russell terrier who was picked up and attacked by a snowy owl.

Digital images of Lewes 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 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 first 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. Wellness coverage and 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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