Neonatal Ataxia in Coton de Tulear dogs:
DNA test now available! Click here for details to share with your veterinarian on ordering the test
What is Bandera’s syndrome?
Bandera was a Coton de Tulear pup that couldn’t move right. As her littermates began to get on their feet and explore their world, Bandera was left behind. She wanted to run and play with them, but she could not coordinate her movements. The harder she tried to walk, the more she would flail and fall. She was taken to see Dr. Joan Coates, a board certified veterinary neurologist now at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr.Coates diagnosed Bandera with neonatal ataxia and began working with Dr. Gary Johnson and other researchers who ultimately found the cause of the disease.
Neonatal refers to infancy: the time immediately after birth. A lack of normal coordination of movements is called ataxia. Thus neonatal ataxia is the term for the type of poor coordination Bandera showed when she should have been learning to walk. Coordination is controlled by an area of the brain called the cerebellum. In Bandera’s neonatal ataxia, this area of the brain never functions normally and the pups can never learn to walk normally.
Is Bandera’s hereditary?
Bandera’s Neonatal Ataxia is inherited as a recessive trait. That means that for a pup to be affected, they must have two copies of the defective gene. For this to happen, both the parents must be carriers. They each have one copy of the defective gene that they passed on to the unlucky pup. They do not show signs of the disease because they also have one copy of the normal gene which is enough for their brains to function normally.
What causes Bandera’s syndrome?
Dr. Gary Johnson at the University of Missouri discovered the mutation responsible for Bandera’s syndrome. It affects a neurotransmitter, the chemical signal that brain cells use to talk with each other. The brain looks normal, but without that proper signal, the brain cannot learn how to coordinate movements. Other learning works fine. The pups know their family and want to play, but they can never learn to walk.
What can I do about it?
A DNA test is now available. By testing breeding dogs, carriers of the disease gene can be identified. A carrier can still be bred, but must only be bred to a dog that is shown to be clear of the mutation by DNA testing. Then the offspring should also be DNA tested since some will be carriers of the trait.
Click here for details to share with your veterinarian on ordering the test
How can I help?
We are still trying to understand how this mutation causes the coordination difficulties. If you have a Coton de Tulear puppy that you suspect has Bandera’s ataxia, please contact us. We can provide DNA testing of the suspect pup and we may be able to learn things from them that will help others.
This work was possible through the generous support of individual breeders. You can help us move this work forward by contributing to the Neurology Support Fund of the Comparative Neurology Program at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine.