Snorted Almond Causes Costly Surgery for Cunning Cocker Spaniel

According to Ellen Unsworth of Sacramento, Calif., her English cocker spaniel Tomis is a sweet and well-mannered dog, which is why his owners had little concern about hosting a small holiday gathering for a few two-legged friends. Though Tomis was relaxed and behaved around guests, the cunning canine was patiently awaiting the opportunity to indulge in a tasty, and in this case, a highly toxic snack. While pet poisoning is a common occurrence, this particular incident had an extraordinary twist, earning Tomis the title of “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI).

“If we hadn’t caught Tomis with his front paws on the coffee table, we wouldn’t have known; he’s very cunning about stealing food. Our backs were turned for only a moment when he devoured a bowl of raisins and almonds we had set out on the table,” said Ellen. “We called our veterinary office, and they advised us to bring Tomis in immediately for potential raisin toxicity. What we didn’t know was that, in his haste to sneak as much food as possible, Tomis had coughed while swallowing one of the nuts, which caused it to become firmly lodged in the back of his sinuses.”

Tomis’ veterinarian induced vomiting and treated him over the next two days for food poisoning. While the cocker spaniel remained under medical care, his veterinarian and owners became alarmed by what Ellen described as a “horrible rattling noise” from deep inside his muzzle. His veterinarian preformed a CT scan and identified a large mass in the back of his nose. After an unsuccessful attempt to remove the mass with a rhinoscopy, it was decided it needed to be taken out surgically through Tomis’ soft palate. When the surgical team began to operate, they discovered the mass was actually a whole almond, wedged tightly in place. Fortunately, the surgeon was able to remove the nut and Tomis has since made a full recovery.

“Many pets are highly motivated by food and can be incredibly diligent about getting it,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Because it’s impossible to watch them constantly, it’s all the more critical to know what foods are toxic or harmful to animals and to keep those items completely out of reach. Tomis’ incident is also a good reminder that even the most common occurrences can result in unexpected expenses for pet owners.”

Dr. McConnell recommends that pet owners contact their veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately if a toxic ingestion occurs. Available 24-hours a day at (800) 213-6680, the Pet Poison Helpline is an animal poison control service that can assist pet owners with treating a potentially poisoned pet. For more information about pet poisoning prevention and first aid, visit

As for the Unsworths, the family is much more diligent about keeping snacks out of reach and is currently training Tomis not to touch food until he is released to eat it. “We realize that we can be vigilant about watching him 99 percent of the time, but it all comes down to that one moment when an incident like this can happen,” said Ellen. “Thank goodness we have pet insurance; we have been so happy with VPI.”


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