Stick Scare Helps Turn Over a New ‘Leaf’

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual April Claim

Brea, Calif. (May 14, 2014) – Playing with a stick seems as normal a part of a dog’s life as tail-wagging. But for one unfortunate pooch, a twig turned into a nasty situation that earned a dog appropriately named ‘Leaf’ the title of April’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

Leaf’s full name is Leaf van der Meer, and the lively young Parson Russell Terrier is family to Ana of New York City and her partner, Petra. It was Petra who first heard Leaf make an unusual bark when playing, and the next day the dog seemed sluggish and had her tail between her legs. Noting Leaf’s unusual behavior, Petra took Leaf to her veterinarian who performed cervical and abdominal radiographs, but could not detect anything. After 14 days on antibiotics, and two additional veterinary visits, Leaf’s congestion had cleared but her breathing still sounded unusual, especially at night. After more advanced testing by a veterinary specialist, Ana and Petra eventually realized that a twig was lodged in Leaf’s left nasal cavity.

“She’s a talker, but it took about a week before she could bark again,” said Ana. “During this time, she ate only soft food with warm water. We knew that Leaf was still not her normal self. Our veterinarian suggested that a rhinoscopy be performed on Leaf, and she referred us to a veterinary specialist.”

During the complicated procedure, in which a tiny tube with a light and lens is inserted into the nasal cavity via Leaf’s throat, a twig was spotted in the back of Leaf’s left nasal cavity. It was so completely trapped there, that the specialist ended up having to take the twig out through Leaf’s nose. “The veterinarian mentioned she had never seen a case like Leaf’s,” said Ana.

“Leaf’s story is another example of how pets can be injured from seemingly safe, everyday objects,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, and Chief Veterinary Officer for VPI. “Usually when sticks get stuck, it’s in a place like the mouth, esophagus, stomach or intestines. It’s rare that a stick penetrates into the nasal cavity, leaving no evidence on the interior of the pet’s mouth. It just shows that anything can happen, and highlights the importance of monitoring your pet for abnormal behaviors. We’re happy to have been able to help turn over a new Leaf.”

Ana is happy to say that Leaf has since made a full recovery, but that she is no longer allowed to play with sticks. “We actually still have the twig, which is the size of a penny,” said Ana. “The procedure was expensive, and we were so pleased that VPI was able to help offset some of our veterinary costs. My recommendation to new pet parents is to insure your pet as soon as possible. Dogs will be dogs and you can’t react fast enough to make sure nothing ever happens to your beloved furry family member.”

Leaf’s incident was one of nearly 100,000 claims received in the month of April 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 April included a Labrador retriever who ate an entire bag of cough drops, an Australian Cattle dog who was attacked by a bobcat, and a Golden Retriever who ate sand. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

As the most unusual claim submitted in April, Leaf 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 Leaf 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

Contact Us



P.O. Box 2344
Brea, CA 92822-2344