Feeding for horse with allergies
A couple years back, we started finding strange irritating lumps on my horse...when they were biopsied both times (2 different years) it came back as an allergic reaction to insect saliva. She never really had any other allergic symptoms, just these strange lumps. So we had an allergy panel done on her, and it came back with all KINDS of stuff she was allergic to, and the degree to which she was. Here's the list, and a key to reading it:
*KEY = (BL-P=Borderline Positive, P=Positive, HP=Highly Positive)
Shavings (birch mix) - 214 P
Johnson grass -- 176 BL-P
Alfalfa pollen -- 176 BL-P
Red clover -- 177 BL-P
Mold (botrytis cinera) -- 230 P
Mold (candida) -- 178 BL-P
Mold (Grass smut mix) -- 176 BL-P
Insects (caddisfly) -- 176 BL-P
Insects (Culicoides) -- 176 BL-P
Molasses -- 437 HP
Soy beans -- 218 P
Her two food allergies are listed above...I expected the insect sensitivity because of the lumps and then got more than I bargained for with the food allergies. So we immediately took her off any horse treats that had molasses in them (which is most of them!) and off her current feed which was pelleted with no molasses but which contained soy beans (like most of them do!).
Ever since this, it's been a struggle to feed her...she's on barley and then we have to fill in the gaps of her nutrition with supplements from SmartPak but my Paint/QH is now always battling keeping weight on her when she used to be an easy keeper. My question is...if she never seemed to react (no hives or anything) before we did this allergy panel and discovered the food allergies, should I just wean her back onto a horse feed and see what happens?
With allergies, besides the obvious skin allergies, are there any other symptoms I should be looking for if I do that?
By the way, that allergy test was done in April of 2010. Here's a photo of my mare before we changed her diet...
And here's one that was just taken last weekend...(now, keep in mind she's a lot more fit than she was in 2009, but especially when I'm working her, you can see her ribs a little bit too my for my taste!) ;-)
I'll also add that after I posted this, I started googling "blood allergy test for horses" and it came back with lots of articles and forum posts on how allergy testing that is done via blood sample rather than a skin test tends to produce a lot of false positives...I'm really starting to lean towards weaning her slowly from her barley onto a horse feed again (starting with one that just has soy bean, no molasses, to see what happens with 1 "allergy" at a time of course).
My vet for my dog told me of the two options for allergy testing. Blood and scratch test. She said blood test was obviously way less painful but like you found can produce false positives. I refuse to put any animal through scratch testing as that is just awful. I went through that for my allergies and I couldn't imagine doing that to an animal that had no idea what or why you were doing that to them.
I would add one allergen at a time to see if there is a reaction. Be aware that it could possibly take a month or more for the certain allergen to build up in the system enough to produce a reaction.
Tbh I don't find this result very surprising- most horses have some kind of intolerance towards most of these substances- shavings, mould, pollens and insects. The food allergies are interesting though... Would never have thought molasses would be something a horse would be allergic too! But i guess finding a feed with no molasses isn't really a bad thing- low sugar and starch diets are best for horses anyway :)
As for finding a feed which she doesn't react to, look on the producers website and find a contact email/phone number. Ask for a full list of the ingredients of the product you are interested in, and even ask if they have any feeds which meet your requirements. Btw be careful if you are assuming cubes don't have molasses in because most manufacturers use it as a binder.
If you start trying to re introduce molasses and soy beans I would guess signs of a reaction would be similar to those in humans- swollen throat/which ever body part came into contact with the substance, puffy sore eyes, coughing, sweating excessively, restlessness... that sort of thing. I can see why you are curious about trying to reintroduce the feeds with soy beans in because she had previously eaten them, but I don't think I would diliberatly feed my horse something I know she is allergic to, even just to see if she could handle a small amount. You wouldn't give a kid with peanut allergies a peanut to hold to see how allergic they are...
You can try weaning her back onto the foods. HOWEVER, I will tell you that the lumps were very possibly caused by food allergies. I had a mare that was allergic to alfalfa. Unfortunately, that's all we had available to feed her (long story short....my dad raised alfalfa and that's what the animals got fed). She did ok for several years other than coughing and hacking her way thru the winter until she could be out on grass again. One day, when she was around 15 (I'm guessing, it's been over 20 years ago) she was broke out ALL over her body with oozing sores. Vet called out immediately!! It was her body finally totally rejecting the alfalfa! I had to find a source for grass hay immdediately. Not easy when your monthly income is less than $800.
And, BTW.... she is GORGEOUS!! The 2nd pic may be a bit thin for your taste, but she looks like she is in perfect working condition. I know people like to have more fat on their horses (mine are usually WAY too fat LOL) but just like with us, it's hard on their bodies. I'd say she's doing just fine with what you are feeding her!
Thanks for the feedback guys...and to address a couple specifically...
Owned, had I seen any reactions (at all) to the food which she had previously been on for years, I wouldn't be thinking about it. A peanut allergy can be easily fatal especially to a child, so the comparison to me just isn't a relative one. Had she ever coliced before, had trouble breathing, coughed, gotten hives, or ANYTHING else that would have put me on the alert I would not consider it. But she had no reaction save for the bug bites, which both were biopsied and both came back insect allergy so we know what caused those for certain - the insects she's allergic to.
KCC, I thought about it being more systemic and causing them, but we biopsied both of them and both came back as insect bite allergic reactions. Plus even after being off either food allergen for 2 years, she got another lump this year, again from an insect bite reaction. So I'm fairly certain that's exactly what those were from.
Here's another question for the forum though...I've heard allergies can cause labored breathing...I have never noticed it with my mare and she and I Event, Fox Hunt, do Hunter Paces, etc so it's not as if we sit on our duffs ;-) But I have read that labored breathing can cause "heave lines", and when I googled them they look somewhat similar to what my mare has had since I rescued her back in 2008...so anyone familiar with what heave lines look like, can you tell me if the line towards the bottom of her belly here looks like one?
Here's another side view of her...
I can't really tell for sure...and I will say that she was bred twice before I got her, so not sure whether having foals could play a part in how her muscles there look?
I am beginning to suspect soy allergy in one of my geldings; so I am going to try oats with a vitamin/mineral balancer. You're right that it is very hard to find anything without soy in it, even supplements. I recently found out that I am allergic to soy, and I realized that the majority of processed food has soy in it. It's practically impossible to eliminate it.
As far as symptoms of soy allergies, I know that in humans it can cause stomach upset and respiratory problems. I'm trying to take my gelding off soy because he occasionally coughs after eating, his eyes are red, and he just looks like he isn't feeling his best. It could just be from other allergies in the air, but I can't control them.
I just saw your post about the heave lines, and my gelding that I mentioned in my last post has the same lines; so I suspect that is what they are.
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