Seattle sea otter diagnosed with asthma

The Seattle Aquarium has diagnosed one of its sea otters with asthma. And now trainers are teaching the 1-year-old sea otter how to use an inhaler.

Seattle TV station King 5 reported on the asthma diagnosis for sea otter Mishka. The aquarium believes it’s the first diagnosed case of sea otter asthma.

“More and more there starts to be this concept of what we’re calling “one health,” which really is that there’s a connection between health of people and the health other species,” Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, an environmental and occupational health professor at the University of Washington, told King 5. “Sometimes those species can tell us there is a problem in the environment that could be important for human health as well.”

When smoke from the wildfires blanketed the western half of the state, poor Mishka — like many people — was having trouble breathing, according to King 5. That’s when veterinarian Lesanna Lahner diagnosed with Mishka with asthma.

Now, Mishka’s trainer is using food to teach the sea otter how to push her nose on the inhaler and take a deep breath, according to King 5.

Mishka’s inhaler is just like the inhalers people use. Mishka will likely need the inhaler for the rest of her life.

Check out the King 5 story to see video of Mishka using her inhaler. It’s pretty incredible.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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