Tree Branch Twinge Causes Mouthful of Trouble for Labrador Retriever

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual January Claim

Brea, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2015) – Adam Sedar of Frackville, Pa. describes his dog Bones, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever, as a loving and calm master of the outdoors. Bones is a life-long hunting dog who frequently spends his time trekking through the brush and trees to retrieve downed pheasants for Adam. However, one morning during a routine walk, Bones learned how dangerous the wilderness can be after he leaped off course and was impaled by a tree branch. Bones’ bizarre injury and relieving recovery have earned him the title of January’s "Most Unusual Claim of the Month" by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

Everyday Adam and Bones take an early dawn walk along a forested path. It’s one of Bones’ favorite parts of the day. As Bones smells and investigates the trail, Adam commonly lets the expert retriever have some freedom to explore.

“Bones enjoys everything about being outside,” said Adam. “He knows what he’s doing so I usually let him get about ten yards ahead of me to enjoy himself. He’s never been injured on our walks and he’s usually very careful, which is why this whole situation was really odd for us.”

On the day of his incident, Bones was midway through his walk when he suddenly jumped off the trail. Although the jump wasn’t far, Adam could hear his dog instantly yelp. He rushed over to Bones and found him standing as if nothing was wrong.

“I checked out his legs and tail and everything felt okay,” said Adam. “But I could tell something was wrong by the way he was holding his head. I looked at his ears and neck, but nothing seemed amiss, nor did I see any blood. I couldn’t figure out what was causing him pain until I opened his mouth and saw a stick in the back of his mouth.”

Adam attempted to take the stick out, but it was stuck and Bones let out a yelp. After realizing the wood was embedded deep into Bones’ throat, Adam rushed him to Bernville Veterinary Clinic for immediate treatment. Once at the hospital, the veterinarian determined that there was more wood stuck well below what could be visualized through Bones’ mouth, and recommended he be anesthetized for minor surgery to extract the object.

Once Bones was under anesthesia, the veterinarian was dumbfounded by what he discovered. Bones had a six inch branch beginning at back of his tongue and ending deep in his throat. Fortunately, the branch avoided puncturing any vital areas of Bones’ body and he was released from the veterinary hospital after a short surgery and a few hours of rest.

“Bones is incredibly lucky that the branch’s path didn’t cause serious damage,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for VPI. “Injuries from an impaled objects can be quite severe and possibly life threatening, especially when they involve the pet’s head or neck. Adam acted correctly by seeking professional medical attention right away and not trying to dislodge the stick in Bones’ throat on his own. Odd situations like this are prime examples that our pets can become injured at any time and that it’s crucial to be prepared."

Since the incident, Bones has made a full recovery and is back to being the best hunting companion Adam has ever had.

“I’m so relieved that Bones is okay,” said Adam. “I still can’t believe the whole thing happened. I never thought that something as simple as our morning walk could turn into such a scare. We’re fortunate that we’ve always been prepared with VPI for situations just like this. I didn’t have to worry about veterinary costs and could focus on getting Bones the help he needed. With VPI we’re ready for anything!”

As the most unusual claim submitted in January, Bones will be in the running for the 2015 VPI Hambone Award. Bones’ incident was one of more than 100,000 claims received in the month of January by VPI, and was selected by VPI employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in January include a Jack Russell terrier who battled a seal, A Labrador retriever who was injured in a skiing accident and a pug who fell off a balcony. All pets considered for the VPI Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

Note to editors: Digital images of Bones are available upon request. Please 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 525,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency (VPI), a Nationwide company, is the first and largest pet health insurance provider 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 plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Wellness 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.

Insurance plans 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 (2013); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2014). Veterinary Pet Insurance, VPI and the cat/dog logo are service marks of Veterinary Pet Insurance Company. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide Is On Your Side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2015 Veterinary Pet Insurance Company and Nationwide. 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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