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Odd and Interesting: Not Your Typical Veterinary Medicine Cases

You can expect just about anything when it comes to animals

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Looking like Zebras

Looking like Zebras

mape_s on Flickr
Veterinarians use the term "looking for zebras" to describe oddball medical cases. The "zebras" are fun, though; they serve as a reminder to keep in mind the more common (and anticipated) diagnoses, and to expect just about anything when it comes to animals.

One of my most memorable cases was a cat who was brought in for vomiting. Of course, vomiting can be caused by many different diseases and conditions, but when I palpated something suspicious in the abdomen, we went right to x-rays. I found a triangular object. I couldn't quite tell what it was, but it definitely wasn't supposed to be there.

I did the exploratory surgery, and found the severed head of a rubber rat in the intestine. "Oh, that was his favorite toy!" said his owner after surgery. "We wondered where that went." Thankfully the cat recovered just fine. As you can expect, care was taken in choosing future toys.

A common case that often surprises pet owners is when a dog finds, and eats, rat poison. "But it was hidden!" say the owners. It is important to remember that rat poison is a bait and dogs, with their amazing sense of smell (and the help of claws and teeth) are often able to find things that humans can't.

A recent press release from Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) promoted me to write this article. They have decided to make the odd and unusual cases submitted as insurance claims part of a monthly contest called the Hambone Award.

From the press release: The 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 find him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia.

That was one lucky dog for sure!

The first winner of the Hambone Award was Sugar, a Jack Russell Terrier.

    From the VPI press release: Most people's diets contain too much sugar. But for Sugar, the Jack Russell terrier, the problem was too much turtle. After meeting a wild turtle in the back yard, Sugar decided to have her new friend for dinner. Sugar's method for disposing of the turtle's shell - eating it - left her with a small piece of the shell lodged in her nasal cavity. After weeks of respiratory difficulty and inconclusive X-rays, veterinarians performed surgery and found the piece of shell, which Sugar's owner, Ginger Reynolds, now has in a small glass tube.

    "She started having trouble after eating the turtle, but we really didn't think that part of the shell was stuck in her nose!" said Reynolds. "The veterinarians had never seen anything like it, and they did an amazing job given the unusual circumstances. Thanks to them Sugar is back to normal."

    Though undeniably unique, Sugar's claim was not without competition. Honorable mentions included Louie, a one-year-old French bulldog who ingested more than 50 tea light candles; Ember, a six-year-old mixed breed dog who chased and caught her own tail, breaking it in several places; Bubba, a two-year-old Boston terrier who was shut into a recliner; and Oakley, a ten-month-old Labrador who ate a box of disposable razors. All of the pets with a claim considered for the distinction have fully recovered and received insurance reimbursement for eligible treatment costs.

    "Our intent with the Hambone Award is to let pet owners know just how unexpected the unexpected can be," said Nilam Nalamwar, VPI's director of claims. "We frequently hear pet owners say that they aren't worried about the cost of veterinary care because their pet is healthy. Unfortunately, we also hear them say that they never thought their pet would eat a turtle, sneak into a refrigerator, bite her own tail or swallow a box of razors. Some things are impossible to predict, so we make it possible to insure."

In conclusion:
Pets are unpredictable. Even in the best of circumstances, accidents can happen. Taking a few extra minutes to ask "what if" or "could he get into..." may just save your pet's life.

Related Reading:
Puppy Safety Alert: Dangerous Baby Gate
Protect your pets and puppy proof your yard: Josh's Story
Pet Safety Alert: Garage Door Opener Hazard
Pool Safety Alert!
A story about my own dog, Rex

About Veterinary Pet Insurance:
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the nation's oldest and largest pet health insurance company. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit petinsurance.com.

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