At the Seattle Aquarium this week, a sea otter named Mishka became the first sea otter to be diagnosed with asthma. Mishka’s trainer noticed she started having trouble breathing when smoke drifted in from nearby wildfires. Dr. Lesanna Lahner xrayed Mishka’s lungs and saw a bunch of abnormal gunk showing up. She then diagnosed Mishka with asthma.
To take her asthma medication, Mishka uses an inhaler connected to a spacer. Her trainer Sara Perry has taught Mishka to put her nose to the spacer and breath in, in exchange for food. “We want to make this as fun as possible,” said Dr. Lahner. “Any kind of medical behavior you’re training, you want to make sure it’s nice and positive.”
Even though Mishka may be the first sea otter diagnosed with asthma, she’s far from the first animal to get this diagnosis. It’s not uncommon for cats, dogs, and even horses to develop asthma. In our Tips & Advice Center, we even have a section dedicated to how to give your pets nebulizer treatments.
"More and more there starts to be this concept… we're calling One Health,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. One Health means “that there’s a connection between health of people and the health [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.”