Fact Sheet: Kissing Spines in Horses


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The name might sound romantic, but in reality kissing spines often cause heartbreak and bring nothing but pain.

The term “kissing spines” refers to a decreased space between the dorsal (topmost) spinous process of the spinal vertebrae. The space can become so small that adjacent dorsal spinal processes can actually touch or, in some cases, overlap. These lesions are, therefore, referred to as “kissing” or overriding dorsal spinal processes (ORDSP), respectively.¹ As with most musculoskeletal abnormalities, this defect frequently results in pain at the affected site(s), causing abnormal strains on adjacent bones and tissues. In turn, horses can suffer from poor performance either with or without obvious lameness. Remarkably, some horses diagnosed with kissing spines don’t appear to show adverse clinical signs.

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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