When Dawna and Madi McNaughton of Huntington Beach, California, first brought Levi, the 7-year-old Labrador retriever, into her home as a foster dog, their goal was to find him a forever home. But after multiple failed adoptions and the relationship they established, they decided to make him an official member of the family. However, that bond was nearly broken after the lovable Labrador swallowed a pair of adult sized pajama pants and needed emergency veterinary care. Levi’s meal misfortune and heartwarming recovery have earned him the title of March’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.
Before entering foster care, Levi lived a life of neglect, which caused him to suffer from severe separation anxiety. Uneasy when alone, Levi would attempt to escape any house when left in solitude, which led to four failed adoption attempts. However, the distraught dog found comfort at the McNaughton household, especially when accompanied by the family’s other Labrador, Maggie.
“Levi was a completely different dog when he was around Maggie,” said Dawna. “Seeing all the issues he had, we knew our home was the best place for him. He’s such a loving dog and wants nothing more than to be a part of the family. He enjoys everything in life, especially the water.”
Just as things we’re looking perfect in Levi’s life, tragedy struck when Maggie’s health quickly deteriorated and she sadly passed away. Levi became depressed and reverted back to his anxiety-ridden ways, which drove him to lose over 20 pounds and patches of fur in a span of only a couple months.
“It was rough for Levi when we lost Maggie,” said Dawna. “He would act okay if he was around me or my husband, but when he was by himself, he couldn’t function properly. Even having our other dogs around him didn’t help much. We put him on medication, which helped, but he still struggled when left alone. He would become destructive and try to escape.”
Levi’s anxiety-driven behavior reached its peak one day inside Dawna’s bedroom. Dawna had just returned home and opened her bedroom door to see Levi asleep in his bed and her husband asleep as well. Not wanting to disturb the peaceful scene, Dawna closed the door and went to another room. She returned an hour later to get ready for bed, but when she reached for her pajamas, she was met with a surprise.
“I went to put my pajama pants on, but as I pulled them up, I realized the legs were gone,” said Dawna. “At first I wasn’t sure who the culprit was. I thought maybe one of the foster dogs had come in and ripped them up, but I couldn’t find any trace of the shreds. I started to suspect Levi, but I wasn’t sure until the next day.”
The next morning, Dawna kept an eye on Levi and noticed him having trouble relieving himself. Upon further investigation, Dawna noticed blood in Levi’s stool, and shortly after, he began to vomit. She immediately called her daughter Madi, who is a veterinary assistant at the VCA All-Care Animal Referral Center in Fountain Valley. Madi advised her mother to bring Levi in immediately, and within minutes they were at the veterinary hospital’s doorstep.
Upon arrival, staff took Levi for X-rays and further tests. The X-rays revealed a large blockage in the ailing Labrador’s intestines. The staff treated Levi with intestinal medications, intravenous fluids and pain medicine with the hope that his body would be able to pass the blockage naturally. If Levi was unable to pass the pajamas naturally, he would need to undergo emergency surgery.
“The whole ordeal was so stressful,” said Dawna. “The fact that Levi had lost so much weight because of Maggie’s death made the situation much more dangerous. We were worried that he might now make it through.”
Luckily for the McNaughton family’s, Levi was able to start passing the fabric the next day. Levi spent the next day in the hospital for monitoring purposes and was eventually released back to his home.
“Labradors are well-known for eating all kinds of things they shouldn’t.” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “Too often that means surgery, but the prompt response of his owners, great care by his veterinary team and bit of good fortune spared him that ordeal. Levi is lucky that his owners take such good care of him, and that there’s a veterinary expert in the family.”
Since the incident, the McNaughton’s have brought a Labrador foster puppy into their home to help with Levi’s anxiety and he has responded wonderfully. Levi has gained nearly all his weight back and has refused any urge to eat things he’s not supposed to. Dawna is grateful for the great veterinary care that saved Levi’s life and relieved with the support she received from Nationwide.
“Levi’s an amazing dog and big part of this family. We would have been devastated if we lost him,” said Dawna. “The veterinary staff was wonderful and knowing Levi had pet insurance coverage from Nationwide gave us peace of mind throughout the process. We feel like dogs should be insured because their health is more important than the veterinary bills.”
As the most unusual claim submitted in March, Levi will be in the running for the 2017 Hambone Award. Levi’s incident was one of more than 110,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of March by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in March include an Italian Greyhound who got his leg stuck in an escalator, a Rottweiler mix who was beat up by a groundhog, and a mix breed dog who swallowed his flea collar. All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.
Note to editors: Digital images of Levi are available upon request. Please send requests to email@example.com.
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 HamboneAward.com.
About Nationwide pet insurance
With more than 600,000 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, nearly half of all 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), Columbus, OH, 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 visit petinsurance.com.
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com.
Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2017 Nationwide.