Animal Attraction

Find posts by keyword
Find posts by date


Animal Attraction: Most Unusual Pet Insurance Claim of the Year Revealed

by Stacy Fox

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM

An ingested bag of toxic onion rings, timely Facebook feedback, and life-saving care at a Boston-area animal hospital led to Winnie 'the pooch' capturing the 2013 VPI Hambone Award honoring the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. Now in its fifth year, the VPI Hambone Award is presented by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, and member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies. The runner-up in the public vote was Natasha, an Oakland, Calif., cat who went through an entire washing machine cycle and lived to purr about it. The annual Hambone Award was created by VPI to educate the public about unexpected mishaps that befall household pets.

For their outstanding treatment of Winnie, the Hyannis Animal Hospital in Yarmouth, Mass., will receive a $10,000 VPI-funded award through the Veterinary Care Foundation to treat pets whose owners could not otherwise afford treatment.

Winnie's tale occurred last March, when Kyle Bowser of Barnstable, Mass., returned home to find an empty two-pound bag of frozen onion rings and a very guilty-looking mixed-breed pup.

Saved by Social Media: Winnie's Story

Kyle and her husband rushed out of the house to pick up their daughter without realizing they left a bag of groceries that contained a two-pound bag of frozen onion rings on the counter. When the Bowsers returned home, they found an empty frozen onion ring bag on the floor and Winnie with a very guilty expression on her face.

Thinking the onion ring consumption could lead to nothing more than a stomach ache; Kyle's husband posted the photo on Facebook. Fortunately, a friend who viewed the photo pointed out how harmful onions can be to dogs, leading the Bowsers to research the toxicity of onions.

"I did some quick investigating and found out that onions aren't just bad for dogs, they are extremely toxic and can cause anemia," said Kyle. "After reading that, I immediately called the Pet Poison Helpline, and they instructed me to take Winnie to the veterinarian."

At the animal hospital, the veterinarian induced vomiting and fed Winnie charcoal to absorb the toxins. While the veterinarian wasn't worried initially when he examined Winnie, upon learning that she had ingested the entire-two-pound bag of frozen onion rings, he grew concerned that the ingredients in the onions could cause damage to her red blood cells.

Although Winnie's blood tests did indicate initial signs of anemia, fortunately, Kyle and her husband's mad dash to the veterinarian prevented any long-term damage from occurring.

"In extreme cases of onion poisoning, the pet may need a blood transfusion," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary officer for VPI. "The Bowsers made the correct decision to immediately take Winnie to an animal hospital to receive treatment. Winnie and all of the other 2013 VPI Hambone Award nominees illustrate the need for pet owners to always be prepared for unexpected events."

As the 2013 VPI Hambone Award winner, Winnie will receive a bronze trophy in the shape of a ham, as well as a VPI swag bag filled with toys, treats and an emergency pet kit. VPI swag bags also will be given to the following noteworthy competitors:

Second Place – Natasha the Siberian Forest cat (Oakland, Calif.). Natasha was treated for shock and hypothermia after her owner's roommate accidentally completed a wash cycle with the curious cat inside the machine. (Natasha was treated at VCA Bay Area Veterinary Specialists in San Leandro, Calif.)

Third Place – Macie the Labrador retriever (El Cajon, Calif.). Macie was out on a bike ride with her owner's son when the leash got caught on the front tire of the bicycle causing it to run over and fracture the pup's rear left leg. (Macie was treated at Pet Emergency & Specialty Center in La Mesa, Calif.)

The 11 nominees were chosen from more than 1.1 million claims VPI receives annually. They were considered among other uncommon medical claims and selected by VPI as the most unusual of the bunch. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. More than 6,000 votes were cast at from Sept. 24 – Oct. 11, 2013 to determine the winner. For more details about the 11 VPI Hambone Award nominees, to read their claims, and see their photos, visit

Veterinary Pet Insurance