Mishka, the one-year-old sea otter (Enhydra lutris) at the Seattle Aquarium is the first of its kind to ever be diagnosed with asthma, researchers say.
When they noticed that the 45 pound (20 kilograms) sea otter could barely breathe, the staff members at the Seattle Aquarium tried to help by putting an oxygen mask on Mishka.
Mishka is now taught by trainers how to use an inhaler that was initially designed for cats and not for sea otters, stated Dr. Lesanna Lahner, a veterinarian at the Seattle Aquarium.
“She’s very smart, and she’s picking it up quite quickly. But being an otter, she’s also extremely playful. So we have to work with her and with her playfulness to make it fun,” Dr. Lesanna Lahner stated.
In July 2014, the one-year old sea otter was rescued from a tangled fishing net, the staff members at the aquarium said. The sea otter spent the next months at the Alaska SeaLife Center, where specialists tried rehabilitating Mishka. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the sea otter cannot be released into the wild because it does not know vital survival skills such as searching for food.
When the sea otter arrived at the Seattle Aquarium, the zoo keepers named it Mishka which means ‘little bear’ in Russian. Mishka was only diagnosed with asthma several months later when smoke from the wildfires came into western Washington and the zoo keepers noticed that the sea otter was not eating much and was very lethargic.
After that, Mishka suffered an asthma attack. Lahner took blood samples from the sea otter in order to make sure that it didn’t have pneumonia, but the results were good. Then, Lahner took a radiography of Mishka’s chest and it turned out that the sea otter had asthma.
The sea otter’s bronchial walls were thicker than normal which made it difficult for oxygen to enter the lungs. According to Lahner, this thing typically occurs in cats that suffer from asthma.
Now Mishka is learning how to use the AeroKat device that is filled with aerosolized medicine. The sea otter takes a daily dose of fluticasone and it takes albuterol in emergency cases.
Lahner says that any animal with lungs can get asthma, although this condition is usually seen in cats, people, and horses.
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