Den Hoek

Osteoarthritis, spondylosis and kissing spines in horses


Osteoarthritis is a condition that occurs in a joint. A joint consists of bone parts that can move relative to each other. There is a layer of cartilage over those bone parts and there is joint fluid as a lubricant (synovia) between. The cartilage is normally smooth and resilient and together with the synovia it forms a flexible and mobile joint. When there is osteoarthritis, the cartilage is no longer smooth and resilient, but rough and stiff. This causes an inflammatory reaction in the joint and the joint becomes painful and less flexible.

When a joint cannot move smoothly, a reaction will occur in this joint to compensate. The body tries to solve this problem itself by producing new bone, usually where the capsule attaches to the bone.

Osteoarthritis can occur in all joints in the body, including the joints of the back. There are a number of joints between each vertebra. If osteoarthritis occurs there, spondylosis can also develop.


spondylosis in the horse

spondylosis in the horse

Osteoarthritis can develop in all joints of the body, including the joints of the back.

We speak of spondylosis when new bone is formed between two vertebrae in response to the osteoarthritis. The new bone forms a kind of “bridge” between two vertebrae and the joint can no longer move. The spondylosis in itself does not have to be painful, but when especially the surrounding nerves are suppressed, pain arises. If this pressure becomes too great, paralysis can even occur.

The formation of osteoarthritis and spondylosis will never go away, but the inflammation in the joint can be reduced or even disappear completely, thereby reducing pain and improving mobility.


Osteoarthritis and spondylosis are therefore the result of cartilage damage in the joint.
This damage can be caused by:

  • Wrong and insufficient movement
  • Overweight
  • Trauma
  • Overload
  • Hereditary burden / congenital anomalies
  • Wear as a result of a natural aging process in aged animals
  • Incorrect diet


  • Start-up stiffness / start-up lameness
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Hindquarters / lower back stiffness
  • Pain expressions
  • Difficulty with defecation and / or urination
  • Lose muscle mass
  • Slack
  • Resistance

Kissing spines

kissing spines horse
kissing spines in the horse

Kissing spines is also a form of osteoarthritis. The kissing spines are located at the top of the spine. In this condition, the spinal processes of two vertebrae touch each other.

By touching the bone parts, a local irritation of the bone / cartilage occurs and new bone is created. This phase of bone reshaping is a painful process. Sometimes the pain is only visible while riding the horse, because only then the spines touch each other due to the hollow back. If the process continues, these bone parts can eventually grow together completely. Usually the pain is gone. The area of intergrowth is then of course less mobile. Kissing spines are common in the withers and behind the saddle.

Read more about Kissing Spines

Holistic vision

From a holistic point of view, we also look at osteoarthritis and spondylosis from a different angle. From acupuncture, the kidneys provide healthy bones and the spleen provide healthy and flexible joint fluid. If one of these two organs gets out of balance, joint problems can develop earlier.

There are many acupuncture points around the joints. Energy can be exchanged at those points. In particular, the penetration of energy is important here. Cold and wind can enter a joint and cause a cold and stiff joint. That is why these horses often have more joint problems in the winter. They have more trouble getting up and take longer to smooth out. The kidneys located in the area of the lower back are also very sensitive to cold, which further enhances the complaints that we see in wet and cold periods. That is why it is important to keep horses with joint and / or kidney complaints warm during cold periods with the help of blankets, for example.

Besides keeping warm, movement is very important, “rest rusts”. Movement ensures that the blood flow continues and the joints remain warm and supple. In horses that are in the stable all day without movement, this means that complaints can arise and / or worsen.


Contact our practice for support with medication and supplements.


These chronic pain complaints can only be treated symptomatically, because you can no longer do anything about the joint change and the associated osteoarthritis. By means of our treatments and medication, the process can be slowed downand the pain will be significantly less. The great advantage of this method of treatment is that painkillers are often no longer necessary or can be given in much lower doses.

The treatment and advice depend on the situation and symptoms, but can include, for example:

author: Drs. A. ten Napel

© 2014 Holistic practice for animals Den Hoek. No part of this article may be used without the permission of the author.

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