Summertime is one of our busiest seasons at Oak Haven Acres. We are constantly on the lookout for things like overriding spinous processes aka kissing spine (In humans this spinal problem is referred to as Baastrup’s sign) and other health concerns. Our veterinarian is a caring professional that has the knowledge, skills, and experience that our ranch needs to meet our standards of equine care. Not only is the horses’ physical health monitored, but also their social and emotional well-being.
Our vet takes time to teach our other staff members to recognize signs and symptoms of injury, sickness, and diseases in our equine friends. We work closely with our animals every day and form lasting bonds. The more familiar we are with them, the easier we can notice if something isn’t right with their health.
Recognizing Kissing Spine
If you’ve raised equines, you know you must be vigilant about their well-being. One prevalent spinal disorder among horses is called overriding spinous processes, which is also known as kissing spine. If you’ve experienced spinal issues yourself, you realize how painful they are. Unfortunately, horses can’t tell you when they are in distress, so you must depend on our observation and intuitive skills.
In a healthy equine spine, you’ll notice a small bony knob that sticks up from each vertebra. These knobs compose the spinous process, and they’re spaced evenly to allow your horse to flex and extend its back. In the kissing spine, the nobs are too close and may even touch (like a kiss). Moving the back produces pain and reduces the animal’s mobility.
Veterinarian science is unsure what causes kissing spine, sadly any horse is susceptible. However, it seems to occur more often in thoroughbreds and warmbloods. If your equine friend is 5-10 years old, it’s the prime age span for the condition to develop. We’ve also seen kissing spine affect senior horses.
Case Study: Twilight
To help us understand this serious equine condition better, we must consider one of our beloved past residents. She was a Spanish Andalusian with a stunning black coat mottled with white. Her owners named her Twilight, which was fitting.
This magnificent creature had a singular gait and graceful movements that made her a well-known fixture at the ranch. At the time, she was eight years old. Twilight was a gentle horse that got along splendidly with staff and her fellow equine boarders. She always had good vet checkups and never showed signs of sickness or chronic conditions.
During the third month of her stay with us, one of our handlers noticed that Twilight wasn’t acting normally. We discovered that she reacted with pain when she flexed her back or if we stroked it. Thankfully, our ever-diligent vet was on the case.
We discussed the subtle and obvious symptoms that Twilight had displayed at the time. Her pain seemed to center around the last vertebrae of her thoracic spine, where horses carry their saddles. Our staff veterinarian suspected that Twilight was experiencing a kissing spine.
X-rays can confirm or rule out this condition. The vet looks for things like cysts, bone malformations, and shorter spaces between her spinous process. It’s possible for an X-ray to show signs of kissing spine, yet the horse has no symptoms.
After reviewing her X-rays, the vet positively diagnosed Twilight with the spinal disorder. The good news was that the condition was caught in the early stages, so treatment was more likely to be successful.
Treating Overriding Spinous Processes
Treating kissing spine depends on the horse and the severity of the condition. In Twilight’s case, her disease was mild enough to be treated with local corticosteroid injections. The vet also recommended a few sessions of equine chiropractic therapy. We were all thrilled that a bit of time and the proper treatment made her condition manageable enough to still enjoy life.
In more severe cases of kissing spine, the doctor may prescribe surgical intervention. They can cut ligaments connected to the affected vertebrae to make them less restrictive and create more space. Sometimes, the surgery involves removing part of the bony processes to create the openings. Most horses recover quickly from surgery with a positive outcome.
The Equine Love Connection
The connection between horses and their owners is powerful and eternal. It’s our loving responsibility to be in tune with their habits and catch non-verbal cues for their health and happiness. Reporting signs and symptoms of disorders like kissing spine to your vet can mean the difference in your equine living a pain-free life or one in constant discomfort.
Oak Haven Acres is dedicated to caring for senior horses and client boarding. Our caring staff has years of experience and works with our veterinarian for your horse’s optimal health. The horses bring us so much joy and love, so how could we not return the favor.