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Corro Stories

Managing Kissing Spine in Horses

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By Jessica Konopinski

Does your horse flinch away when you go to place the saddle on his back? Has your horse acted difficult when you went to mount? Is your horse reluctant to roll or lay down? If you answered yes to these questions, your horse might have an ailment known as kissing spine. Also known as Overriding Dorsal Spinous Processes, this condition is one of the most common causes of back pain in horses.


How Do I Know If My Horse Has Kissing Spine?

How do I know if my horse is suffering from kissing spine? When a horse has a kissing spine, the spinous processes are spaced too close together. In some cases, they can be touching.

Due to this lack of space, the horse is subject to reduced mobility in their back and can experience widespread pain, especially during certain types of movement. An accurate diagnosis is the first step when managing kissing spine.

Typically, the rider and trainer will monitor the horse’s behavior under saddle and on the ground. They will also examine any overall training issues, including common patterns or discrepancies within the horse’s overall career. If they notice anything unusual or in line with the typical clinical signs, a veterinarian can step in from there.

Usually, a veterinarian will first observe and study the horse's history, behavior, and training. Next, considerations such as the horse’s breed, discipline, gender, and age are brought into the picture, especially since kissing spine is more prevalent in thoroughbreds, quarter horses, warmbloods, and horses who compete in dressage or jumping. From there, veterinarians can run x-rays, bone scans, or ultrasounds to investigate the horse's condition further.

To properly diagnose kissing spine, it takes a team of attentive professionals, consistent communication from the horse, and patience to determine precisely where the issues stem from.

How Do I Manage a Horse with Kissing Spine?

The golden question. Managing a horse with kissing spine can be complex, tiresome, and require a lot of patience. What may work for one horse may not work for another, and that’s why it’s so important to know all of your treatment options before deciding on what would be best for your horse.

Other considerations like accessibility to specific treatments, the severity of the horse’s condition, the horse’s career, and the owner's budget also play a part in determining the right path to take in this situation.

Option 1: Surgery

In severe cases, a veterinarian will often recommend surgery. This treatment option is recommended after trying less invasive options. However, surgery often serves as the best option for both horse and owner.

Veterinarians can provide two types of procedures for horses suffering from kissing spine. The first method, known as Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy, involves the ligaments connected to the deformed spinous processes.

As mentioned before, this procedure tends to be less expensive and can also be done while the horse is standing. The second treatment option directly addresses the bony spinous processes. While this may seem less complex, it must be done under general anesthesia and requires a longer recovery.

Option 2: Medical Management

To make a horse suffering from kissing spine more comfortable, a veterinarian will first make sure the horse's pain and inflammation are down to a minimum. This can be done with a wide range of therapies such as muscle relaxants, chiropractic, acupuncture, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. More advanced options include shockwave therapy and corticosteroid injections.

Option 3: Physical Therapy

You can not go wrong with implementing physical therapy into the everyday routine of a horse suffering from kissing spines. It is recommended by most, if not all, veterinarians to incorporate physical therapy alone or in combination with medicinal therapy or post-surgery.

There are tons of different forms of physical therapy for horses with kissing spine, and it can be a fun and rewarding treatment option as you watch your horse become stronger and more comfortable while building a stronger bond with them. However, no matter what form of physical therapy you choose, lowering the neck and lifting the back is often involved. Your veterinarian can help develop an effective physical therapy plan for your horse.

Moving Forward

Overall, kissing spine can be a pain to manage. However, it is absolutely doable. Numerous horses diagnosed with and treated for kissing spine experience impressive comebacks and go on to live long, happy lives.

Paying close attention to your horse, choosing the most appropriate treatment option, and being patient serve as the best advice when managing a horse with a kissing spine. If you stay consistent and keep a positive attitude, you will be surprised with how quickly your horse can recover, and soon enough, you’ll be back doing what you love most with your best friend.