'Mishka' the Sea Otter Learns to Use an Inhaler

Sea otter diagnosed with asthma after being exposed to wildfire smoke.

ByABC News
September 18, 2015, 12:14 PM

— -- A Seattle sea otter is learning to use a life-saving new toy: An inhaler.

Dubbed "Mishka," the sea otter was diagnosed with asthma after smoke blew into the Seattle Aquarium from wildfires in east Washington, according to the Seattle Aquarium's website.

A veterinarian on staff found that Mishka was having trouble breathing and after a running a few tests decided the animal needed her very own inhaler.

Now Seattle Aquarium biologist Sara Perry is working with Mishka to get her comfortable with using her inhaler. Like other training maneuvers, Perry uses food to try and entice Mishka to learn to use the inhaler, filled with the same medication used to treat humans with asthma.

"We try to make it as fun as possible,” said Perry . “Anytime you’re training a medical behavior, you want to make it nice and positive."

The aquarium said they are unsure why Mishka developed the condition, which is more common in humans, but speculated that it may be due to reduced genetic diversity in the population since they were nearly wiped out in the early 1900's and had to be repopulated with otters from Alaska.

"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," the aquarium said on their website.