The Seattle Aquarium is hoping an inhaler can help a sea otter who officials believe developed asthma because of wildfire smoke near the city.
The 1-year-old sea otter named Mishka developed breathing problems recently when smoke from the Eastern Washington wildfires moved into the Puget Sound area in August, according to the Seattle Aquarium blog.
Dr. Lesanna Lahner, the staff veterinarian at the Seattle Aquarium, told KING-TV
that an inhaler could help the sea otter breathe better if officials are able to train the animal to actually use it.
"These lungs here, you can see, have more white in them," Lahner told KING-TV, referencing a scan. "In a normal radiograph of a sea otter, you wouldn't be able to see those things. We want to make [using in inhaler] as fun as possible. Any kind of medical behavior you're training, you want to make sure it's nice and positive."
She told KIRO-TV that a sea otter
suffering from an allergy attack is similar to what a human would go through with troubled breathing and lethargic behavior.
The Seattle Aquarium posted a brief video showing Mishka using the inhaler administered to the animal by aquarium officials.
"Now Mishka is learning to use an inhaler, just like humans do, to receive medication that will help her breathe better," the aquarium blog stated. "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."
Aquarium officials wrote that Mishka proved to be "a quick study" in learning to use the inhaler. The blog said veterinarians are still trying to figure out how exactly the otter developed asthma.
"We know that humans develop asthma for many different reasons," the blog said. "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."
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