Inhaler Hazard Brings Thunderous Turmoil to Giant Schnauzer

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual February Claim

Brea, Calif. (March 30, 2016) - Dennis Pemberton and his family of Skillman, N.J, have grown accustomed to seeing their massive, 3-year-old giant schnauzer, Thunder’s household shenanigans. One of Thunder’s mischievous hobbies is to steal random items belonging to his family members and parade them around the house. However, Thunder’s last theft left the family holding their breath after he ran off with an asthma inhaler and ingested all its medicine. Thunder’s stifling accident and heartwarming recovery have earned him the title of February’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance. 

The breathtaking blunder took place while Dennis was at his daughter Nina’s high school swimming practice. Thunder was at home with Dennis’ younger daughter Natalie, who happens to be the colossal canine’s favorite person to play pranks on.

“For some reason Thunder’s favorite game involves taking stuff out of Natalie’s room and running around the house with it,” said Dennis. “Most of the time he just hides items in the living room, but sometimes we have to chase him a little bit. It’s always been relatively harmless until now.”

Thunder snuck into Natalie’s room and used his massive length to reach the top of her nightstand. On top was Natalie’s recently re-filled asthma inhaler and Thunder seized his chance, grabbing the device and running through the house. Natalie noticed the enormous prankster’s impish actions and took chase.

At some point during the pursuit, Thunder bit down and inhaled nearly all of the freshly loaded asthma medication. When Natalie finally caught up with Thunder, she noticed something about him didn’t seem right. Shortly after she retrieved the inhaler, Dennis returned home.

“When I walked in, Thunder didn’t greet me at the door like he usually does,” said Dennis. “I saw him laying in the other room and thought he was just tired from playing, but then my daughter told me what happened.”

Unsure what affects the medicine had on dogs, Dennis started searching the internet for clues while his wife Jill tended to the fatigued giant. As Dennis discovered the possible effects, Jill informed him that Thunder’s heart seemed to be beating abnormally fast. Dennis realized that Thunder was in trouble and immediately called the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital of Hillsborough (N.J.) and explained the situation.

“Thunder is part of the family and we’d do anything for him,” said Dennis. “He’s a big dog, but I carried him to the car and got him to veterinarian as fast as I could. We were all really scared for him.”

Once at the veterinarian, the staff ran multiple tests and discovered that Thunder’s heart rate was more than double the normal rate and that he was severely dehydrated.  Working with the Pet Poison Hotline, the veterinary staff treated Thunder until night fall and kept the gentle giant overnight. The next day, Dennis called the veterinary office, but Thunder’s heart rate was still irregular. However that night, the Pemberton family received a relieving call; Thunder was ready to come home.

“Human medications can be extremely poisonous to our pets,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “If you ever suspect that a pet has ingested any type of medication, you should call your veterinarian right away. Thunder’s family did an incredible job getting him help right away.”

After a couple of days, Thunder’s exasperation wore off and he was back to his playful and joyous self. Dennis is grateful for the veterinary team’s astonishing work and delighted with coverage he received from Nationwide.

“I can’t thank the veterinarians enough for saving Thunder,” said Dennis. “He’s a true family dog and we’d be devastated to lose him. This experience solidified my trust in pet insurance. Having Thunder insured with Nationwide helped tremendously.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in February, Thunder will be in the running for the 2016 Hambone Award. Thunder’s incident was one of more than 109,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of February by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in February include a German shepherd who swallowed two stuffed animals, a Bull Mastiff who ate a flashlight and a poodle that got stuck in a clothes hamper! All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. 

Note to editors: Digital images of Thunder 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 550,000 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. 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. ©2016 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

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