Bandera’s Syndrome

Also referred to as Bandera’s Neonatal Cerebellar Ataxia, BNAt, or NCA, Bandera’s Syndrome is a hereditary disease found only in the Coton de Tulear dog.  The cerebellum is the part of the brain that coordinates movement.  If it does not function normally, the dog will lack the ability to control their movement which is referred to as “ataxia”.  There are other and varied forms of ataxias in dogs and other animals, including humans.  While some ataxias are caused by an infection or injury to the brain, we know that BNAt is the result of a genetic mutation; the University of Missouri, Animal Genetics Laboratory has isolated the very gene responsible for this disease in the Coton de Tulear.  In BNAt, the mutation is in a glutamate receptor gene.  These receptors are responsible for the ability of the puppies’ brains “to learn” motor skills– walking, eating, standing, eliminating, etc.  All genes come in pairs and as long as a dog has one normal gene, their cerebellum develops normally.  In the mating of two dogs that carry one copy of the gene with mutation, the two mutant genes will be paired in some of the pups.  Then the glutamate receptors do not develop in the cerebellum and the puppy has Bandera’s Neonatal Cerebellar Ataxia.

How do you know if your puppies have Bandera’s Syndrome?  Puppies born affected with Bandera’s appear exactly like any other healthy Coton neonates.   Upon birth they can move in the whelping box to get to their mother to nurse. They will gain weight the first few weeks of life at a normal rate, and appear to be developing properly in every way. The mother Coton will care for them normally as well.  These puppies have the intelligence and personalities of normal Cotons, and will bond to you, and you to them.  But by the third week or so, when your pups should be standing and really moving about the whelping box, they are not. They may time and again attempt to stand, only to fall to one side. Or they may remain more and more listless as days go by.   After the fourth week you will know that something is very wrong.  Your beautiful pups will not be walking at all. You will have to help them with their feedings and eliminating if the dam is weaning them.  You will be very very worried.  If all puppies in the litter are affected, it may take you longer to realize that something is wrong. But if there are normal pups along with the affected pups in the same litter, you will discover the disease far sooner by comparing the development of the normal to affected pups. Now what do you do?

Share information about Bandera’s Syndrome with your veterinarian, so that they can ensure that your pup’s problems are not caused by some other disease which might be treatable.  Unfortunately there is no help or cure for a puppy affected with Bandera’s. These puppies will never have quality of life and must be euthanized.  While you now can be almost certain that both sire and dam are carriers, you must still have both dogs tested! There are other ataxias and conditions that may present like Bandera’s Syndrome. Only by testing the parent dogs and puppies, can you absolutely know for sure.

Bandera’s Neonatal  Cerebellar Ataxia.  BNAt. NCA. Bandera’s Syndrome.  Call it what you will, this is not something any breeder of Coton de Tulear dogs should ever have to deal with.  But its presence is a reality in our beloved breed.  It is up to all Coton breeders to test their dogs and make wise breeding decisions from those test results that will ensure that future generations of Cotons will be free of this disease.  The pain and heartbreak of dealing with a Bandera’s affected litter will be avoided if you test before breeding!

Test your dog now!