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Sea Otter Diagnosed With Asthma Learns To Use Inhaler

Sep 29, 2015 12:11 PM EDT

After Mishka, a one-year-old sea otter (Enhydra lutris) living at the Seattle Aquarium has since been diagnosed with asthma and is being trained to use an inhaler.  

"She's very smart, and she's picking it up quite quickly," Dr. Lesanna Lahner, a staff veterinarian at Seattle's Aquariu, said. "But being an otter, she's also extremely playful. So we have to work with her and with her playfulness to make it fun."

Aquarium trainers are using food bribes to teach Mishka to push her nose against the inhaler and take a couple of breaths. A video of Mishka learning to use the inhaler can be seen online

Zookeepers diagnosed Mishka after noticing that she seemed lethargic and was not eating normally. Chest X-rays later confirmed she was having asthma attacks, which the aquarium staff treated with an oxygen mask and anti-inflammatory medicine. 

Sea otters are not the first animals to demonstrate they are susceptible to lung disease. Mishka's inhaler was originally designed for cat sufferers, and Lahner notes that similar symptoms are seen in many animals with lungs. However, Lahner is still unsure why Mishka has developed asthma.

Mishka arrived at the Seattle Aquarium earlier this year after being rescued from a fishing net in July 2014. She has been cared for by the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Mishka was rescued at a very young age and was not able to learn critical survival skills in captivity. For this reason, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services deemed her non-releasable and she has since made a home of the Seattle Aquarium.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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