'Mishka' the sea otter learns how to use an inhaler after she develops asthma
A sea otter in Seattle is learning to use a life-saving new toy: an inhaler.
The Seattle Aquarium in Washington said the sea otter named Mishka started experiencing breathing difficulties when wildfires began reaching the aquarium this summer.
Veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner diagnosed Mishka with asthma by listening to her chest and taking her blood work.
Now one-year-old Mishka is learning how to use an inhaler.
Mishka is the first sea otter to have asthma, the aquarium has said, and is receiving the same medication given to humans.
Aquarium biologist Sara Perry is using food to train Mishka to push her nose on the inhaler and then take a breath.
"We try to make it as fun as possible,” said Perry in a news release from the aquarium.
“Anytime you’re training a medical behavior, you want to make it nice and positive."
Mishka - who has been at the aquarium since January - is on a combination of medicines as she transitions from an oral medication to the inhaler, but is reportedly doing well.
The aquarium said they are unsure why Mishka developed the condition, which is more common in humans.
They speculated that it may be due to reduced genetic diversity in the population - sea otters nearly became extinct in 1910 due to hunting and had to be repopulated in the late 1960s with otters from Alaska.
"It could also be related to reduced genetic diversity in sea otters, which has the potential to impact their immune systems and make it harder to fight off disease," the aquarium said on their website.