Seattle Aquarium Teaches Asthmatic Otter To Use Inhaler

The Seattle Aquarium recently diagnosed one of their otters with asthma, and they are currently training it to use an inhaler to treat it.

According to the KNG5, Dr. Lesanna Lahner diagnosed the otter, named Mishka, with asthma after she started having trouble breathing due to the smoke from the wildfires near the Seattle area. The smoke had gotten incredibly thick and was lurking in the Seattle skies.

“These lungs here, you can see, have more white in them. In a normal radiograph of a sea otter, you wouldn’t be able to see those things,” Dr. Lesanna Lahner explained.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, asthma is a condition in which your “airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus.” Because of this, breathing can become difficult, and coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath can be triggered.

One-year-old Mishka is being trained how to use the inhaler just as humans would, and Lahner said they are trying to make the experience as smooth as possible for her.

“We want to make this as fun as possible. Any kind of medical behavior you’re training, you want to make sure it’s nice and positive,” Lahner said.

Sara Perry is Mishka’s trainer, and is using food to teach her how to take a deep breath into the inhaler to receive the medications, the same ones used for humans diagnosed with asthma.

Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, as well as the Department of Global Health, explained the concept of “One Health,” which explains the connection between the health of humans and of other species.

“Sometimes those species can tell us there is a problem in the environment that could be important for human health as well,” Rabinowitz explained.

Alaskan sea otters were previously extinct in Washington. However, 40 years ago, they were reintroduced to the area, making their health a concern.

“Any time that happens and reduces the genetic diversity of a species that can affect their immune system, ability to fight off diseases or deal with environmental contaminants,” Lahner said.

[Photo via Shutterstock]