Magnetic Meal Puts Pug in Belly Bond

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual June Claim

Brea, Calif. (June 28, 2015) – John and Pam Wagner of Monrovia, Calif., know that their companion Sam, a 4-year-old Pug, has quite an appetite. Sam will eat whatever he can get his snout on, including avocado pits, rocks or simply anything laying on the ground, which occasionally leads to a trip to the emergency room. Sam’s gluttony has prompted the Wagners to keep a keen eye on the Pug’s eating habits, but every once in a while, the hungry hound will get his paws on something tempting. Usually the ordeal ends with a stomach ache until the object passes on its own, but Sam’s luck recently came to an end after he swallowed a bunch of magnets that eventually traveled through his intestines and became stuck together, putting the Pug in peril. Sam’s attractive appetite and incredible recovery have earned him the title of June’s ’s "Most Unusual Claim of the Month" by Nationwide (formerly Veterinary Pet Insurance), the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

The incident started at the Wagner family home when the curious canine stumbled across a few spilled goldfish crackers. The crackers had fallen under the crease of the refrigerator and Sam was determined to scoop them free. As he struggled to get every displaced cracker, Sam unintentionally knocked the magnets off the fridge. When he discovered the attractive new treats, Sam couldn’t help himself and swallowed four magnets one by one.

“When I walked up, I could see that Sam was getting his nose into something, so I immediately intervened,” said John. “At first, it looked like he had just gotten into some crackers, but then I saw a couple magnets on the floor and realized there were more missing from the refrigerator. All I could think was ‘here we go again.’”

With Sam’s history of ingestions, the Wagners knew there was a possibility that the magnets would pass on their own due to their small size. Over the next couple of days, they monitored Sam closely, and sure enough, two magnets passed. However, eventually Sam started to look uncomfortable so John and Pam took him to Dr. Domotor’s Animal House Veterinary Hospital and explained the situation. The veterinary staff took X-rays, which revealed the two remaining magnets in Sam’s intestines.

“You could clearly see the magnets in the X-rays,” said John. “It looked as if they were working their way through his system without too much of a problem, so the veterinarian recommended we wait a little longer. We had no idea that they would actually attract to each other.”

The family patiently returned home, but after a short period of time, Sam’s health deteriorated so they rushed him back to the veterinary hospital. A second round of X-rays revealed only one magnet, which at first glance, led them to believe the other had passed. However, upon closer investigation, they discovered that the magnets had actually attracted to one another while in separate parts of Sam’s intestines and had clamped together, pinching the walls of his intestinal tract. To make matters worse, the magnets were so strong they had created holes in his intestinal walls. Sam’s condition became serious and he was immediately prepped for emergency surgery to extract the magnets and repair the damaged areas of his intestines.

“When a pet ingests a foreign body, it can have major repercussions,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “In many cases, the object will cause a blockage, but what makes this case so unusual is that the magnets were attracted to one another, causing extreme damage to Sam’s intestinal wall. Fortunately, Sam’s owner did an exceptional job recognizing the warning signs and getting Sam the treatment he needed.”

It’s been a long road to recovery, but Sam is nearly back to his old self. His appetite has returned and he’s resumed his regular walking schedule, but the Wagners still have to stop Sam from eating things he’s not supposed to.

“Sam is huge part of this family and we’d do anything for him,” said John. “We’re so grateful for the incredible work the veterinarians did to save Sam, and I’m glad I had Nationwide to help with the cost. Accidents like this are a reminder of why pet insurance is important to have. I recommended it to everyone.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in June, Sam will be in the running for the 2015 Hambone Award. Sam’s incident was one of more than 110,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of June by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in June included a Golden retriever who was hit with a rock that was shot from a lawn mower, a mixed breed dog who was kicked in the teeth by a deer, and a German Shepard who swallowed a light bulb! All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

Note to editors: Digital images of Sam are available upon request. Please send requests to

About Hambone Award

The Hambone Award is named in honor of a Nationwide-insured dog who 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 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 Hambone Award nominees are available at

About Nationwide pet insurance

With more than 525,000 insured pets, pet insurance from Nationwide, formerly known as Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), is the first and largest pet health insurance provider in the United States. Since 1982, Nationwide has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers. 

Nationwide 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 pet insurance from Nationwide 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). Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide Is On Your Side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2015 Nationwide. Pet owners can find Nationwide pet insurance on Facebook or follow on  Twitter. For more information about Nationwide pet insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

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