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Kissing Spine in Horses: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.

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I was brushing my horse’s back when I noticed an area that caused him pain. So I rubbed my hand over the location and got the same reaction. I quickly realized something was wrong and called a friend to come over to check the horse. After carefully rubbing his back for a few minutes, he believed the horse had a kissing spine.

Kissing spine is a condition that occurs when the bony vertebrae of the spine come into contact with each other. This can result in pain, inflammation, and nerve damage. Common causes are poor posture, incorrect saddle fit, genetics, and conformation defects. The condition is most common in overweight horses or ones with poor muscle tone.

Many horse owners have never heard of kissing spine, but it is a condition that can cause your horse serious pain and restrict his movement. My vet told me our horse didn’t have kissing spine, but before he was cleared, I learned a lot of valuable information about it.

Picture of a lump that could be kissing spine.

What is kissing spine in horses?

One of the most common back issues with horses is kissing spine. What happens is the vertebrae in the horse’s spine start to grow abnormally and begin to touch and fuse together and rub against each other. This starts to cause a lot of pain in the horse, making it very uncomfortable for them to move around.

They may show signs of discomfort, such as shifting their weight around frequently or hesitating when asked to go forward. The disorder is most common in Thoroughbreds and older horses but can occur in any equine. It’s important to have your horse examined by a veterinarian if you suspect it may have kissing spine. The vet will likely take X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

Once kissing spine is diagnosed, several treatment options are available. These include chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Surgery is also an option in severe cases. Some horses with kissing spine can return to normal activity levels with proper treatment. So if you think your horse might have kissing spine, don’t wait to get them checked out by a vet.

Picture of a horse eating from a hay bag.

What are the symptoms of kissing spine in horses?

Kissing spine can be a serious ailment, but with early diagnosis and treatment, a horse may be able to return to a normal life. Which makes knowing the symptoms to watch for imperative. So here are some of the signs your horse may display if it has kissing spine.

1. Lameness

One of the most common symptoms of kissing spine is lameness. Lameness is when a horse has difficulty moving one or more of its limbs. It can be caused by pain, inflammation, or muscle weakness. Lameness can range from mild to severe and may come and go or be constant.

2. Back Pain

Another common symptom of kissing spine is back pain. Back pain can range from mild to severe and may be constant or come and go. Horses with back pain may have difficulty moving and exhibit signs of discomfort when their back is touched.

3. Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms are another common symptom of kissing spine. Muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of the muscles that can cause pain and discomfort. They may be caused by inflammation or nerve irritation. Muscle spasms can range from mild to severe and may come and go or be constant.

4. Difficulty Moving

Horses with kissing spine may have difficulty moving their back, neck, or limbs. They may also have difficulty lying down or standing up. This can make it difficult for horses to properly eat, drink, and groom themselves.

5. Signs of Discomfort

Horses with kissing spine may exhibit signs of discomfort when their back is touched or when they move certain parts of their body. They may also whinny more than usual, grind their teeth, or stomp their feet. These are all signs that the horse is in pain and needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

6. Weight Loss

Weight loss is another common symptom of kissing spine. Horses with kissing spine often lose weight because they are in so much pain that they cannot eat properly. Additionally, horses with kissing spine often cannot absorb nutrients properly, which can lead to weight loss even if they are eating enough food

Picture of a two year old filly.

What are the causes of kissing spine in horses?

Kissing spine is a condition that affects many horses, especially those that participate in competitions. The malady is caused by the bones in the horse’s back pressing against each other. This can happen because it continuously works with a high head, is genetically predisposed to the condition, or poor conformation. Here are the most common causes of kissing spine in horses.

1. Poor Saddle Fit

One of the primary causes of kissing spine is poor saddle fit. If a saddle does not fit a horse properly, it can put pressure on the horse’s spine, which can lead to kissing spine. In addition, poorly fitting saddles can also cause the development of muscle imbalances, which can further contribute to the development of kissing spine.

2. Trauma

Another common cause of kissing spine is trauma. If a horse experiences trauma to the back or spine, it can damage the vertebrae and lead to the development of kissing spine. Trauma can occur due to falls, kicks from other horses, or accidents while being ridden.

3. Genetics and Breed

Kissing spine can also be caused by genetics. Some horses are simply born with vertebrae that are more prone to Kissing than others. Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, and Quarter horses are likelier than other breeds to develop Kissing Spine even if they never experience trauma or have poor saddle fit.

4. Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition is another common cause of Kissing Spine. If a horse is not getting enough nutrients, it can weaken the bones and back muscles, making them more susceptible to injury. In addition, poor nutrition can also lead to muscle imbalances, which can further contribute to the development of kissing spine.

5. Lack of Exercise

Lack of exercise is another factor that can contribute to the development of kissing spine. If a horse does not get enough exercise, its muscles will become weak and imbalanced, which can put additional strain on the spine and lead to Kissing Spine.

6. Age

Age is another factor that can contribute to the development of Kissing Spine. As horses age, their bones and muscles begin to deteriorate, making them more susceptible to injury and increasing their risk for developing Kissing Spine.

7 . Weight

Weight is another factor that can contribute to the development of Kissing Spine in horses. If a horse is overweight, it puts additional strain on the spine, which can lead to Kissing Spine.

How is kissing spine treated in horses?

Kissing spine can cause a great deal of pain for horses and make it difficult for them to move properly. In severe cases, it may even lead to paralysis. The condition can be very difficult to treat and often requires surgery. However, with proper care and treatment, many horses are able to live long and healthy lives despite their condition.

1. Rest

One of the best ways to treat kissing spine in horses is to give them plenty of rest. This means turning them out in a large paddock or field where they can move around freely and graze on grass. If your horse is in pain, you may also want to consider giving them pain medication.

2. Massage

Massaging your horse’s back can also help to relieve pain and improve range of motion. You can either do this yourself or hire a professional equine massage therapist.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is another popular treatment option for kissing spine in horses. This involves inserting needles into specific points on the horse’s body to relieve pain and promote healing.

4. Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is another treatment option that can be beneficial for horses with kissing spine. This involves adjusting the bones in the horse’s spine to improve alignment and relieve pressure on the nerves.

5. Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct kissing spine in horses. This is typically only done as a last resort because it is invasive and expensive. There are two procedures, one shaves the bony spinous processes and cuts the ligament, and the other just clips the ligament. Recovery from surgery can take several months, and there is always a risk of complications. However, for horses with severe kissing spines, surgery may be the best option for improving their condition.

6. Joint injections

Joint injections are a treatment option for horses with kissing spines. They can deliver medication directly to the joint, which can help reduce inflammation and pain. Corticosteroids are the most commonly used type of medication for joint injections, but other options include hyaluronic acid. Joint injections are generally safe, but there is always a risk of complications such as infection.

Picture of a two-year-old thoroughbred horse. that is overweight and susceptible to kissing spine.
This horse could get in better condition.

What can horse owners do to prevent their horses from developing kissing spine?

While the exact cause of kissing spine is unknown, a few things can be done to help prevent it.

1. Keep Your Horse at a Healthy Weight

One of the best things you can do to prevent your horse from developing kissing spine is to keep him at a healthy weight. Kissing spine is more common in horses that are overweight or obese, as the extra weight puts additional strain on the spine. If your horse is carrying around more weight than he should be, talk to your veterinarian about a weight loss plan.

2. Provide Your Horse with Regular Exercise

Another way to prevent kissing spine is to provide your horse with regular exercise. Exercise helps to keep the muscles and ligaments around the spine strong, which can help to prevent the condition from developing. A healthy horse should get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.

3. Use Proper Saddle Fit

It is also important to use a saddle that fits your horse properly. A poorly fitting saddle can put undue pressure on the spine, which can lead to kissing spine. When shopping for a saddle, make sure to have your horse’s measurements taken so you can find one that will fit him properly.

4. Have Your Horse Checked by a Veterinarian Regularly

Another good way to prevent kissing spine is to have your horse checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis. Your vet can spot any early signs of the condition and provide you with treatment options if necessary. It’s important to catch kissing spine early, as it can be much harder to treat once it has progressed.

5. Take care of any underlying lameness conditions

Finally, take care of any underlying issues of lameness. If a horse is lame, it may compensate by shifting its weight in a way that puts additional strain on the spine, leading to kissing spine. We had a horse with a swollen hock that was overcompensating when walking. We had to take care of the problem immediately to prevent damage to her back and other legs.

6. Know the Signs of Kissing Spine

Finally, it’s important to know the signs of kissing spine so you can catch it early if it does develop. Some common signs of kissing spine include back pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving. If you notice these signs in your horse, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Taking these preventive measures can help reduce your horse’s risk of developing this condition.

Conclusion

Kissing spine is a condition that affects horses, and it can cause a variety of problems. Symptoms can include lameness, reluctance to move, and stiffness. The condition is caused by a problem with the spinal cord, and it can be treated with a variety of methods. However, the best way to prevent kissing spine is to provide your horse with good care and keep them at a healthy weight.

FAQs

How does a horse react with kissing spine?

Kissing spine is a medical condition in horses where the vertebrae contact one another, often causing pain. Symptoms of kissing spine can include stiffness, reluctance to move, and pain in the back. In severe cases, a horse may be unable to move at all.

Can horses live with kissing spine?

Yes, horses with kissing spine can live relatively normal lives. The main challenge is that they often have back pain, which can make movement difficult and uncomfortable. However, with proper care and management, some horses with kissing spine can live a long life.