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Image: Ranger
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.
Ranger, a Westie/poodle mix, tried to play "fetch" with a Portugese Man o' War and got stung by the jellyfish-like creature.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 9/16/2010 8:41:50 AM ET 2010-09-16T12:41:50

A Labrador who ate a hive with thousands of bees inside. The West Highland terrier who attacked a chain-saw. A border collie that crashed through a closed glass window to get to the mailman.

Are these doggies with a death wish?

Actually, they're just normal pooches, according to some of the bizarre accidents reported to pet insurance companies. As the popularity of pet insurance continues to grow, claims for the crazy trouble our animals get into have become so doggone common that Veterinary Pet Insurance created the “Hambone,” a bronze trophy awarded to the pet who survived the wackiest accident.

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Out of 80,000 claims received every month, VPI picks one claim for every month and invites people to vote for a winner. The top dog of 2010 was the honey-loving Lab, Ellie. Along with the terrier and collie, some of the 12 runners-up included: a poodle mix that tried to play “fetch” with a Portuguese man o’war; an Abyssinian cat that got stuck in a dryer; and a Jack Russell that tangled with a predatory lizard in Australia. These hapless critters are reminders of just how stupid, expensive and potentially dangerous pet tricks can be.

“We see a lot of these things,” says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services at Philadelphia-based Petplan Insurance. “They’re absolutely more common than people think.”

Image: Veterinary Pet Insurance
Veterinary Pet Insurance
Ellie, a Labrador retriever, gobbled up an entire beehive.

There’s the Yorkie that required “intense hospitalization” after eating a bag of marbles, a mixed breed dog that swallowed pantyhose and the cat that “was playing where it shouldn’t have been” and survived being impaled on its owner’s sword, according to recent claims at a different insurance company, PetPlan.

Stupidity clause?
Some animals really raise the bar when it comes to trouble. Accident claims filed with ASCPA Pet Insurance’s desk include a puppy who became ill after eating sand; a mini-Dachshund who ripped open a bag of disposable razors, devouring one; and a cat that “caught” itself in the lip while playing with a fly fishing lure.

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Some canines deserve special recognition for their gastronomic determination. Sara McMillan, communications director for PetPlan, describes Gwen, one of their client’s 9-year-old Samoyed who devoured a box of thumb tacks, a hair scrunchie, and a W2 form. She also devoured the reimbursement check the insurer sent to her owner.

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A Doberman belonging to Seattle writer Nancy Bartley repeatedly ate the plaster cast on one her legs — which was broken during a run-in with a frisky squirrel. When Bartley finally fashioned a makeshift pantyhose wrap on the dog's leg, the pooch promptly gobbled that up, to the tune of nearly $5,000 in surgery fees.

Forbidden pleasures
“It’s unbelievable the things dogs will do and then owners will wind up having to pay thousands of dollars worth of surgery to keep them alive,” says Dr. Tony Kremer, a Chicago-based veterinarian who owns five pet hospitals.

Image: Jack - attacked a lizard
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.
Jack, a Jack Russell, ended up at the vet after tangling with a large predatory lizard during a trip to Australia.

Some injuries are brought on by a pet’s natural curiousity or playfulness, such as a cat that starts batting around a thread and will eventually swallow both it and the attached needle. Other accidents are due to the creature’s natural protectiveness.

Discuss: What's the most ridiculous thing your pet has done?

“A lot of people have dogs that will get freaked out with vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers,” says Kremer. “They think they’re protecting the house from the evil lawn mower and will bark and lunge at it and end up getting their toes cut off.”

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Dogs are far worse than toddlers when it comes to risk-taking, Kremer says. “Very few toddlers are going to eat a sock.” While these pet accidents had happy endings, many don't.

To help your pet live a long, hopefully surgery-free life, Kremer suggests ways to pet-proof your home:

Image: Aubie
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.
Aubie, a Border collie, shattered a living room window trying to get to the mailman.
  • Keep all chocolate, alcohol and nicotine out of animals’ reach
  • Avoid toxic plants (especially holly, mistletoe, and poisettias) in the home
  • Keep electrical cords hidden or out of reach (young animals will gnaw on them)
  • Mop up spilled antifreeze (which is naturally sweet)
  • Secure windows and screens (especially on upper floors), as well as curtain cords and strings
  • Confine young animals, who are more curious, to a single secured room rather than allowing them roam free
  • Keep clothes, particularly dirty socks, pantyhose, and underwear (including bras), well out of reach in a closed hamper or closet.

In fact, underwear-eating has also resulted in some close calls — for both dog and owner, says Kremer.

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A woman once brought in the family dog who required $2,000 worth of surgery for an intestinal obstruction, the vet recalls. “We saved the panties the dog had eaten and when the wife looked at them, they weren’t her size. Apparently, the husband had brought somebody else home.”

Diane Mapesis a Seattle freelance writer and author of "How to Date in a Post-Dating World."

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