The Seattle Aquarium has diagnosed a sea otter with asthma, the first case for the animal the aquarium believes.

Mishka the sea otter was first observed to be having trouble breathing in August when smoke from wildfires in the area made its way to the aquarium. After a series of tests revealed that the sea otter was indeed asthmatic, she was given medication (the same one prescribed to humans) through an inhaler that she was taught to use with food as reward, like other training maneuvers.

"We try to make it as fun as possible. Anytime you're training a medical behavior, you want to make it nice and positive," said Sara Perry, the Seattle Aquarium biologist in charge of helping Mishka learn how to use her inhaler.

Now on cue, the sea otter has learned to push her nose up on the inhaler and then take a deep breath.

Horses, cats and dogs have been known to get asthma but there is little research, if any at all exist, about the condition in non-domesticated animals. Even in humans, the exact cause of asthma is still unclear but it is thought to be the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors, with triggers differing from person to person. It is also difficult to pinpoint what could have led to Mishka's condition but it is also likely the combination of her environment and genes as well.

Smoke appeared to be Mishka's trigger but it is also possible that a low level of genetic diversity in sea otters in the area may have had a role in her condition developing. Sea otters in Washington went extinct in the early 1900s because they were exploited for their fur. Mishka is related to a group of Alaskan sea otters brought to the state but a number of them died shortly after arriving, further reducing genetic diversity in the population. Because of the limited gene pool, sea otters in Mishka's generation, the ones before her and the others that will follow will be susceptible to disease.

Mishka arrived at the Seattle Aquarium in February after being rescued from being entangled in fishing nets in July 2014. She was deemed non-releasable and so was transferred to the aquarium after being rehabilitated at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

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