If you suspect your horse might have a food allergy, an allergy test might not be the next step to take. Belgian researchers recently determined that some standard laboratory and commercial allergy tests for horses are not reliable—often suggesting allergies that don’t exist.

Horses with suspected food allergies are often given unbalanced meals in an effort to avoid the likely allergen, said Sofie Dupont, DVM, practical assistant in small animal and equine nutrition and Resident ECVCN at the University of Ghent Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in Merelbeke.

“In our nutrition consultation service, we’re often confronted with questions from owners regarding presumed allergic horses,” Dupont said. “This often leads to very unbalanced rations because the presumed allergy leads to the elimination of a range of commonly used products.”

Allergy tests for small animals have already shown to be unreliable, she added. So together with her supervisor Myriam Hesta, PhD, and her team, she wanted to test the reliability of equine allergy testing, as well, since an unbalanced diet can be detrimental to a horse’s health and well-being.

In their study, Dupont and colleagues sent blood samples from 17 healthy Shetland ponies to a commercial laboratory for allergy testing (allergen-specific immunoglobulin E, or IgE, analysis). The team took two blood samples from each pony at two separate times.

The testing suggested that 10 of the ponies were positive for a food allergy in at least one of their two blood samples, Dupont said. However, the results were not always consistent between two samples from the s