Lucky Labrador Gets a Mulligan After Retrieving – and Swallowing – a Golf Ball

Staying true to his breed’s name, Rhett and Noelle Ricks’ six-year-old Labrador retriever, Luke, loves to retrieve objects. His prowess for recovering items even earned Luke the title of “Master Hunter” around the Ricks’ household. Unfortunately, his keen retrieving skills backfired last month when he accidentally swallowed a golf ball in the backyard of the Ricks’ Emerald Isle, N.C., home. The incident resulted in a trip to the emergency animal hospital and surgery to remove the ball, earning Luke the title of June’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

“Our 12-year-old twin boys were in the backyard hitting golf balls, when, instinctively, Luke went off to retrieve one of the balls,” explained Noelle. “He brought the ball back to my husband and was getting ready to release it, and next thing you know, he accidentally swallowed it.”

The Ricks immediately called their veterinarian, who suggested Rhett administer hydrogen peroxide to Luke in hopes that it would induce vomiting and cause the golf ball to come back up. After several gulps of hydrogen peroxide but no reaction from Luke, the veterinarian told the Ricks to take Luke to the nearest emergency hospital.

At the hospital, the veterinarian took an X-ray to confirm the golf ball was in Luke’s stomach. After numerous attempts to get Luke to vomit the ball up, the veterinarian decided that exploratory surgery would be needed. The golf ball was quickly removed during the surgery and Luke went home with pain medication, antibiotics and a large incision on his stomach.

Immediately following the surgery, Luke was required to limit his exercise, which was difficult for such an active pooch. Fortunately, Luke has made a full recovery and is back to retrieving any object he can get his paws on. However, the Ricks are now more vigilant about keeping small objects out of Luke’s reach.

“Although Labrador retrievers enjoy fetching balls and other items, pet owners should avoid pets playing with small objects because they can be swallowed and cause choking or serious gastrointestinal problems,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “The Ricks took the appropriate steps by immediately contacting their veterinarian and getting Luke to the emergency animal hospital to have the golf ball removed before it resulted in any serious intestinal damage.”

The Ricks opted to purchase pet insurance for Luke when he was a puppy to safeguard against costly veterinary expenses should injuries or illnesses arise down the road. More than six years later, Noelle and Rhett have had more than one dozen claims processed for Luke and have been impressed with the quick and simple service VPI provides.

“We purchased VPI Pet Insurance when Luke was 10 weeks old,” explained Noelle. “Over the years, we have used VPI for wellness visits, as well as surgeries. We love our pets and want to provide them the best possible care. Having pet insurance gives us peace of mind knowing that Luke is covered if something happens to him.”


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