Research update: Food allergy testing in horses

Farm Forum

Commercial immunoglobulin E (IgE)‐based tests are available for diagnosis of food allergies and are commonly used in equine practice. However, these tests have been proven unreliable as a screening method in man and other species, but not critically evaluated in horses. Therefore, the goal of this project, conducted in Belgium, was to evaluate a commercially available IgE‐based test for horses.

To evaluate the consistency of the results obtained with a commercially available IgE‐based test for food allergy diagnosis in ponies, blood samples of 17 healthy Shetland ponies were taken at 2 different time points and sent to a commercial laboratory for screening of common food allergens. Ponies that were positive for food allergens were consecutively challenged orally with each allergen separately for 14 days. A washout period of one week was applied in ponies with multiple positive results. Clinical parameters were monitored during the allergy challenge trial period.

Only 7 of the 17 ponies were negative on the IgE‐based test at the 2 time points. Three ponies had positive results twice, but only one tested positive twice for the same food allergen. No abnormalities were noted during the allergy challenge trial, which demonstrated that the IgE-based test was not a reliable screening tool for food allergy in healthy ponies. For more information on this research visit

Summarized by Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minn.