Many of you had questions after our recent blog post announcing sea otter Mishka’s asthma diagnosis—and our staff veterinarian kindly agreed to answer the most common queries. See below for Dr. Lahner’s responses to your questions, and thanks for your concern about Mishka. As you’ll read, she’s doing great!
Q: Has Mishka’s asthma affected her ability to dive?
A: Mishka is receiving medications to control the clinical signs of her asthma so that she acts and feels like a normal, healthy otter. Therefore, she is diving normally and the asthma has not affected her physical abilities.
Q: Have you noticed improvement in her breathing using the inhaler?
A: Mishka is still receiving a systemic medication to control the clinical signs of asthma so at this time we are not relying on the inhaler. Once she is weaned off the systemic medication, the inhaler will improve her ability to breathe and reduce or eliminate any signs of asthma just like it does for a human or a cat—or even a horse.
Q: What type of asthma do you think Mishka has?
A: There are many forms of asthma: exercise induced, cold induced, allergen induced and more... Mishka likely has asthma that is aggravated by poor air quality; she does not seem to have trouble breathing after bouts of exercise.
Q: How can you tell/make sure that Mishka is actually breathing in the medicine when she puts her face to the inhaler?
A: There’s a little tab that moves on the spacer to indicate when she is breathing that tells us she’s breathing in the medication. Without that it would be tough to know for sure how many breaths she took each time she put her face to the inhaler.
Q: Did Seattle Aquarium manufacture the device that is used with the inhaler?
A: No, we are using a device called an Aerokat that’s manufactured specially for cats with asthma.
Q: How often does Mishka use the inhaler?
A: The inhaler is a daily treatment for Mishka.
Q: Can this occur in the wild?
A: That’s a great question—yes, it is likely that free-ranging or wild animals could develop a reactive airway condition or asthma. Wild animals do not have the benefit of escaping poor air quality and are not able to get medical treatment for an asthma attack. This is just a reminder of how important it is to take care of our planet and keep our air clean because we all rely on it to stay healthy!