Equine Kissing Spines – Diagnosis & Treatment

23 May Equine Kissing Spines – Diagnosis & Treatment

Kissing Spines, also known as Dorsal Spinous Process Impingement (DSPI) is a condition that poses a significant issue for horses and their riders. Here’s a quick look at the most important things you need to know about this equine malady.

What exactly is Kissing Spines/DSP?

Kissing Spines is a condition characterised by a consistent low-grade pain caused by spinous processes (the sections of the bone attached to the vertebrae) that are located too close together and therefore impinging on one another. The problem is generally located in the thoracic section of the vertebral column (the area where a rider would sit) and less commonly behind the saddle area in the lumbar region.

How is Kissing Spines diagnosed?

The disease has very subtle symptoms, so the horse needs to be watched carefully to determine whether this is in fact the problem. Signs include:

  • Struggling to maintain a three-beat canter
  • Frequent disuniting
  • Becoming irritable when the girth is done up
  • Becoming irritable when you groom his back

A more accurate option is to check by means of X-ray and ultra-sonogram, or the problem areas are injected and the response to the nerve block is assessed during exercise.

The disease is more frequently diagnosed in performance horses that take part in dressage, events and competitions than those that are used for low-level work, but this could be because their riders are more in tune with their mounts and likely to notice the symptoms.

What are the treatment options?

There are a few treatment options available; the choice is normally made based on the degree of impingement, the horse’s personal tolerance levels and the daily demands that are made of it. These treatment options include:

  1. Steroid injections twice yearly (or as required) in combination with physiotherapy and training.
  2. Equine rehabilitation & re-schooling. A different rider/saddle, increased muscle tone due to physiotherapy and a change in work could improve the flexibility of the spine and relieve pressure. This kind of approach also impacts on the psychology of the rider and normally improves their attitude towards the horse.
  3. Two 8cm-long incisions are made along the back, after which the surgeon cuts through the supraspinous ligament. Once all muscular and ligamentous attachments are severed down either side, they cut off around half the spinal processes, removing about 7cm of bone. Next, the ligaments and skin are sutured. After the procedure a void is left and a blood clot forms, followed by fibrous tissue.

Would you like to know more about Kissing Spines, equine care or horse maladies? Get in touch with the expert team at West Acres Animal Hospital and keep an eye on our blog for more helpful information regarding proper pet- and animal care.

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