Bandera's Syndrome is a hereditary disorder that affects just one breed of dog which is the Coton de Tulear. The condition is also known as Bandea's Neonatal Cerebellar Ataxia (BNAt or NCA) and when a dog inherits the disease, it affects the part of the brain called the cerebellum which is responsible for co-ordinating a dog’s movements. The disorder was first diagnosed in the States after which time a lot of research was carried out into Bandera's Syndrome by a veterinary neurologist called Dr. Joan Coates and Dr. Gary Johnson who together with other researchers were the people who originally discovered the cause of the disorder.
The condition may manifest itself due to a dog injuring their brains in some way or they may have suffered an infection of the brain. However, it has now been established that Bandera's Syndrome is a hereditary disorder caused by a gene mutation which can only be found in the Coton de Tulear. Research has shown that the mutation occurs in what is known as the glutamate receptor genes. These receptors are vital because they are responsible for a puppy's brain to be able to learn how to walk and move around normally which includes standing up, eating and going to the toilet.
Genes are always found in pairs which in short means that if a dog has at least one normal gene, then things develop normally, but they would be carriers of the damaging gene mutation. The trouble begins when two dogs carrying the gene mutation are bred with each other which can result in a puppy inheriting Bandera's Syndrome because it is known to be a recessive trait. This in short means a puppy must have two copies of the mutated gene for them to develop the condition. With this said not all puppies may be affected, but the risk of even one puppy in a litter having the gene mutation is too great for dogs that carry the gene to be used in a breeding programme.
Puppies with the condition will appear perfectly normal when first born. They put on weight and can suckle from their mother with no apparent problem at all which means they will grow normally for the first few weeks of their lives. However, as time passes and during the third week of a puppy's life, they start to show signs of there being something seriously wrong. They are unable to move around or even stand up which results in them needing help to do everything which includes eating, drinking and going to the toilet once weaned by their mother.
If only one puppy in a litter is affected, it is often easier for owners to realise there is something wrong with them. However, if the whole litter is affected, it can take longer because all the puppies seem to be at the same stage of their development. It is essential for any puppies suspected of suffering from the condition to be seen by a vet as soon as possible so a correct diagnosis can be made. A vet would carry out tests to rule out any other reasons for a puppy's condition and if they find there is another underlying cause that’s treatable, they would then decide on the best course of action. However, if it is found that a puppy is suffering from Bandera's Syndrome, sadly there is no treatment or cure and as such the kindest thing to do is to put them to sleep because the quality of their lives would never improve over time.
It is essential that all Coton de Tulears to be tested for the condition before being used in a breeding programme as this is the only way of reducing the chances of puppies being born with this terrible and fatal condition and to ensure the breed remains free of Bandera's Syndrome in the future. Thankfully, there is a DNA test available for this disorder and all reputable and responsible breeders would always ensure their stud dogs are regularly tested for Bandera's Syndrome before they are ever used to breed from. It is also essential that Coton de Tulear puppies be tested for the condition just in case they too are carriers of the gene mutation.