Brea, Calif. (June 25, 2015) – Valerie Mould of Princeton, W.Va., has grown accustomed to her 5-year-old Boxer Curtis’ knack for snacking on things he’s not supposed to. Curtis has ingested various items in the past, including a frisbee, but has remained unscathed. However, his luck came to an end after he swallowed a wooden BBQ skewer, which disappeared in his body and nearly ended his life more than a year later. Curtis’ bizarre battle and remarkable recovery have earned him the title of May’s "Most Unusual Claim of the Month" by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.
The saga of the skewer began more than a year ago at the Mould’s home during a family barbeque to celebrate the birth of their daughter. Valerie’s mother-in-law had prepared chicken and beef shish kabobs, and placed them on the kitchen counter. Curtis caught whiff of the delicacies and seized his opportunity with one big leap. Valerie saw the theft and charged after him.
The veterinarian told Valerie to watch Curtis closely to see if the skewer would break down and pass. The next morning Curtis seemed fine and ate breakfast, but that night he started to vomit and collapsed. Valerie called the local emergency veterinary hospital, which recommended she take him to Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech for treatment. Curtis underwent an ultrasound and endoscopy, but the staff couldn’t see the skewer.
“They couldn’t find the skewer anywhere, no matter what they tried,” said Valerie. “There were no signs that the skewer had punctured anything either so they believed that it had possibly broken down in his stomach. They monitored him for a couple days in the Intensive Care Unit, and sent him home once he seemed to feel better.”
The Moulds monitored Curtis’ stool for weeks, but saw no signs of the skewer. A few months later he started acting like a different dog. He stopped playing and didn’t eat as much as he used to. Valerie took him to the local veterinary hospital multiple times, but his illness was non-specific and remained a mystery. Slowly Curtis’ demeanor became worse, and he began to shake and yelp when his side was touched. Another trip to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech revealed a large mass near his liver. The veterinarians feared that it could be cancer, which would explain why his health had been deteriorating.
“We just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him,” said Valerie. “He’s like our child and we would do anything for him. Hearing that he could have cancer was heartbreaking, but we were going to get him all the care he needed, no matter what.”
When the veterinarians performed surgery to remove the mass, they were shocked at their discovery. The mass was a large ball of scar tissue surrounding the skewer that Curtis had eaten over a year ago. The skewer had pierced through his intestines and traveled through his body until becoming lodged next to his liver.
“It’s truly remarkable that Curtis was able to survive with a wood skewer in his body for so long,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for VPI. “It really shows how strong of a dog Curtis is, and it pays tribute to his pet parents for never giving up on him. Their persistence for seeking treatment saved his life.”
With the skewer now removed, Curtis is slowly returning to his old self. He has started to play again and is regaining his athletic Boxer physique. Valerie is relieved that the mystery has been solved and that Curtis is finally on the road the recovery.
“Curtis is such a sweet and loving dog, it was hard to watch him struggle for so long,” said Valerie. “I’m just happy it’s all over, and grateful that we had VPI. Not having to worry about the veterinary expenses took a huge burden off our decision making. We were able to commit to getting him the medical help he needed, without thinking twice.”
As the most unusual claim submitted in May, Curtis will be in the running for the 2015 VPI Hambone Award. Curtis’ incident was one of more than 105,000 claims received in the month of May by VPI, and was selected by VPI employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in May included a Cairn terrier who was hit in the eye by a golf ball, a Shih Tzu who was trapped under a large mirror and a mixed-breed dog who got a pistachio stuck in his mouth! 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 Curtis are available upon request. Please send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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 petinsurance.com.
P.O. Box 2344
Brea, CA 92822-2344