Sea otter Mishka diagnosed with asthma

Mishka, sea otter at Seattle AquariumOne-year-old Mishka, who joined us just this past January, has asthma—and is the first sea otter to be diagnosed with the disease.

Asthma makes it difficult to breathe by causing spaces in the lungs to become narrower than usual, which allows less oxygen to enter the lungs. Many believe asthma is a condition that affects only humans, but any animal with lungs can have it—cats and horses are two land animals that commonly get asthma.

Mishka began having trouble breathing when smoke from the Eastern Washington wildfires moved into the Puget Sound area last month. Our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, made the diagnosis of asthma based on Mishka’s clinical signs of having difficulty breathing, blood work, radiographs, and actually listening to her chest just like an M.D. would listen a child’s lungs to help diagnose asthma.

Now Mishka is learning to use an inhaler, just like humans do, to receive medication that will help her breathe better. (In fact, even her medication is the same as that used by humans with asthma!) Aquarium biologist Sara Perry uses food to train Mishka to push her nose on the inhaler and take a breath. “We try to make it as fun as possible,” she says. “Anytime you’re training a medical behavior, you want to make it nice and positive.” Mishka is responding well to the training—she’s a quick study, especially when food is involved!

Why does Mishka have asthma? It’s difficult to say exactly… we know that humans develop asthma for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s a mixture of genetics and environmental exposure or sometimes it’s just exposure to an irritating substance such as smoke from wildfires. 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. Washington sea otters became extinct in 1910 as a result of rampant hunting related to the maritime fur trade. (Fast fact: the pelt from the final native Washington sea otter was sold for $1,000, which at that time was enough to buy a house—otters were hunted to extinction because of their tremendous monetary value.)

Sea otters,along with other fur-bearing marine mammal species, were given protection from fur trade hunting under an international treaty in 1911 but, of course, that was too late for the animals that had made their homes in our state’s waters. Washington was without otters for 60 years—until in 1969 and 1970, 59 otters were moved from Alaska to areas along the Washington coast. It’s believed that most of these animals died; many were found washed ashore, dead, soon after. Because of that, it’s estimated that the sea otters on our state’s coast today are descended from as few as 10 animals.

Since 2001, the Seattle Aquarium has participated in an annual survey of Washington’s sea otter population; click here to read our recent blog post about it. Want to learn more about Mishka and the other sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium? Read our animal fact sheet! You can enjoy the antics of our otters anytime via our streaming otter cam.

Video update from September 22, 2015:
Mishka continues to progress with her asthma inhaler training!

This entry was posted in Conservation, Marine Animals and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Sea otter Mishka diagnosed with asthma

  1. Pingback: Asthmatic sea otter learns to use inhaler – video - News-9.comNews-9.com

  2. Pingback: Asthmatic sea otter learns to use inhaler – video - noticiaso.comnoticiaso.com

  3. Pingback: Asthmatic sea otter learns to use inhaler – video - British News Cloud

  4. Pingback: Asthmatic sea otter learns to use inhaler – video | The Circular Economist

  5. Pingback: This Sea Otter Who Has Asthma Learned to Use an Inhaler

  6. Vickie Redd says:

    I am a certified asthma educator in Augusta, Georgia. My primary job is educating parents on the dangers of uncontrolled asthma and teaching children how to use inhalers with spacers. I can’t wait to introduce them to Mishka! My new line will be… “it’s so easy, even a sea otter can do it!”

  7. Pingback: Video: Mishka The Asthmatic Otter Learns To Use An Inhaler | MotionBump Reader

  8. Pingback: Meet Mishka, the first sea otter diagnosed with asthma, and watch her learn to use a puffer | National Post

  9. Pingback: Mishka, la nutria que tiene asma, aprende a usar un inhalador | CNNEspañol.com

  10. Pingback: Pet Scoop: Loyal Dog Stands By Trapped Pal for a Week, Feeders Linked to Illness in Birds | michaelsmith8734

  11. Pingback: Sea Otters Might Be Struggling With Biodiversity

  12. Pingback: Pet Scoop: Loyal Dog Stands By Trapped Pal for a Week, Feeders Linked to Illness in Birds | 101-shopping.net

  13. Pingback: Asthmatic otter using inhaler after wildfire smoke | My CMS

  14. Pingback: Asthmatic Sea Otter Learns To Use An Inhaler - Atheist Boutique

  15. Pingback: Asthmatic Sea Otter Learns To Use An Inhaler | Fox7News.Net

  16. JK says:

    Many thanks to Dr. Lahner and the Seattle Aquarium staff for caring enough about Mishka to test and find a way to treat this sea otter for asthma. You have saved Mishka’s life, and possibly other sea otters’ lives, by trying something that has never been done.

  17. Pingback: First sea otter diagnosed with asthma, Mishka, learns to use inhaler

  18. Pingback: Sea Otter With Asthma Learns To Use Inhaler | " KaXtone.com "

  19. Pingback: Cute Asthmatic Sea Otter Learns To Use Inhaler

  20. Pingback: First Sea Otter With Asthma Trained to Use Inhaler | Care2 Causes

  21. Pingback: Mishka, la #nutria que tiene #asma, aprende a usar un #inhalador | Paz a la Naturaleza

  22. Pingback: Mira como esta nutria que sufre de asma aprendió a usar un inhalador | YaLoSabe.net

  23. Pingback: Mira como esta nutria que sufre de asma aprendió a usar un inhalador | MfM

  24. Pingback: Mira como esta nutria que sufre de asma aprendió a usar un inhalador | La Ciudad - El Diario Digital de la Ciudad de Goya -

  25. Pingback: Mishka es una nutria, tiene 1 año y vive en el Acuario de Seattle. - Perspira

  26. Pingback: Asthmatic Sea Otter gets inhaler - Bad dog news

  27. Aimee says:

    Glad to see the patient is responding so well.

    Curious if we could learn Mishka’s vaccination history?

  28. Pingback: Mishka, la nutria con asma que usa un inhalador - NatPost

  29. Pingback: Inspirational Women: Dr. Lesanna Lahner & Sara Perry

  30. Extremely user pleasant site. Astounding details available on couple of gos to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>