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Neonatal Ataxia Or Bandera’s Syndrome In Dogs

Neonatal ataxia is also known in some places as Bandera’s Syndrome, and is a health condition that leads to the degeneration of the dog’s nervous system, which cannot be reversed or cured. The condition is considered to be a particular risk to dogs of the Coton de Tulear breed, and across the breed as a whole, around 10% of dogs are estimated to be carriers of the condition.

The condition begins to affect puppies who inherit it when they are still young, and because carrier dogs will themselves be healthy and not show any signs of illness, the spread of the condition is due in large part to the breeding of carrier dogs.

However, there is a pre-breeding health screening protocol in place for neonatal ataxia in the Coton de Tulear breed, which enables breeders to find out the status of their prospective parent dogs prior to mating, and so, identify the risk factors for the litter and make an informed decision about whether or not to go ahead with the match.

In this article, we will look at neonatal ataxia in the Coton de Tulear dog breed in more detail, including how the condition affects dogs, how it is passed from dog to dog, and how to get your own dog tested to find out their status. Read on to learn more.

What is neonatal ataxia?

Neonatal ataxia – also sometimes known as Bandera’s Syndrome, so-named for the first dog to be positively diagnosed with the condition – occurs because of a genetic mutation that affects the dog’s nervous system. The gene mutation damages the brain’s cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination in the dog.

The word “neonatal” means new born, or refers to very young offspring, while “ataxia” means lack of coordination, and the condition affects the dog’s ability to control and coordinate their movements, move normally, and develop motor skills. The presence of the condition usually becomes apparent in puppies while they are still very young, and it is usually obvious that something is amiss from soon after the pups are old enough to begin moving around independently.

Affected dogs will have a tendency to fall over a lot when attempting to stand up, and will be unable to walk properly, if at all, sometimes moving in a staggering sideways motion, or making movements as if they are attempting to swim.

Puppies that are affected by the condition will never develop normal motor skills, be able to walk properly or enjoy a normal quality of life, and are usually euthanised after diagnosis as a result of this.


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What sort of dogs are at risk of neonatal ataxia?

Neonatal ataxia is considered to be a risk to dogs of the Coton de Tulear breed, and it can only be inherited due to a combination of mutated gene faults passed on from both sides of the breed line or parentage.

Males and females of the breed are equally affected, and the condition becomes apparent for the first time in young puppies at around the age that they will begin to move independently and try to walk.

How is the condition passed from dog to dog?

Neonatal ataxia in the Coton de Tulear is passed from dog to dog by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that both parent dogs are involved in the condition’s transmission.

Dogs are assigned a status of either clear, carrier or affected – affected dogs won’t normally make it to adulthood and so, be able to breed, but crossing two carrier dogs can still cause the affected form of the condition to develop within a litter, further increasing its spread.

Neonatal ataxia’s mode of heredity can be expressed using the following model:

  • Two clear dogs will have unaffected puppies.
  • Two affected dogs would have affected puppies.
  • Two carriers will produce a mixed litter of 50% carriers, 25% clear, and 25% affected.
  • A clear dog and an affected dog will produce a litter of carriers.
  • A clear dog and a carrier will produce 50% clear and 50% carriers.
  • A carrier and an affected dog will produce 50% affected and 50% carriers.

How to get your Coton de Tulear tested for their status

If you own a Coton de Tulear that you wish to breed from, you must get your dog (and the other dog in the mating match) tested for their neonatal ataxia status first, to ensure that the resulting litter is healthy.

To do this, you just need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from your dog in the form of a blood vial, cheek swab or dewclaw sample, which is sent off for laboratory analysis to return a result of clear, carrier, or affected.

If you are considering buying a Coton de Tulear puppy, choose from amongst breeders who health test their dogs prior to mating, and make the test results available for potential puppy buyers to examine.


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