Horse Health Test Kits: Top 6 Options
At-home health testing has come a long way over the last decade, both for humans and our beloved pets. There are several health tests that are designed for horses, but deciding which ones are worth the investment can be daunting.
Which horse health test kits are worth purchasing? Several companies offer equine DNA testing, but our favorites are:
- 5 Strands
- Etalon Diagnostics
- Animal Genetics
- Breed-Specific Registries
If you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help you navigate through the different companies and what their testing includes. Keep reading for a guide on horse health testing and which one might be right for you.
The Different Types Of (At-Home) Horse Health Tests
There are a variety of different health tests that you can order for your horse online. The two types of tests that we will cover will be related to intolerances and genetics. Intolerance testing kits will test for food and environmental substances that may be adversely affecting the health of your horse – both 5 Strands and Hemopet offer these testing kits.
Genetic testing will test for various genes your horse may have, which can give you an idea of your horse’s susceptibility to a number of hereditary diseases. Both Etalon Diagnostics and Animal Genetics perform genetic testing, as do breed registries and vet health universities.
You can also find at-home test kits for parasites that use fecal samples; these are not covered in this list, but if you’re interested in this type of test, you can compare a number of different companies that offer this, including Zero Egg Count and SmartPak Equine.
If there was just one company that we could recommend for horse health testing, it would be 5 Strands. We used one of their testing kits for our miniature horse Yoshi and were very happy with the information that was provided for us – we were even able to have a phone consultation with them, which was very beneficial in helping us interpret the results.
On top of the helpful and practical information that the test provides, the test sample itself is easy to collect – no blood is needed, but the test instead uses 10-15 strands of hair (maybe they should change their name).
The 5 Strands Equine Health Test kit costs $194 at the time of writing, and includes four different types of tests:
- Food Intolerance Test – tests for over 150 different foods to which your horse may be allergic, including grains, vegetables, fats, additives, and proteins. Three levels of intolerance are tested and reported, according to the severity of your horse’s reaction to the food item.
- Environmental Intolerance Test – tests for over 100 possible environmental triggers, including grasses, trees, insects, essential oils, and fabrics.
- Nutrition Test – tests for over fifteen vitamins and minerals in which your horse may be deficient. The results can indicate nutrients that are not found adequately in your horse’s diet, or that your horse is not absorbing properly.
- Metals & Minerals Test – tests for fourteen different metals and minerals to ensure your horse is processing and eliminating these substances adequately. If he or she is not, this can lead to toxic levels of these metals and minerals.
You can check out what 5 Strands offers here on their site. I get a small affiliate commission if you purchase via my link, so thank you for your support!
Hemopet is a pet health testing company that offers an intolerance test for horses. The package is called Equine NutriScan, and while it costs a bit more than some of the other home health kits at $398, it offers a different way to collect samples – through your horse’s saliva.
Using the saliva, the company tests for 22 different food intolerances, all specific to a typical equine diet (unlike some “horse” intolerance tests found online that test for foods in the meat and dairy groups that would never be a part of a horse’s diet). Included foods in Hemopet’s equine intolerance test are alfalfa, brome, timothy grass, barley, bermuda, rye grass, red clover, oats, apples, molasses, and carrots. Various other grasses, plants, and grains are included in the test as well.
If you have done DNA testing on yourself through companies like 23&me or Ancestry, you may be more familiar with the type of equine testing through Etalon Diagnostics. While 5 Strands and Hemopet focus on intolerances and nutrition, Etalon focuses on genetic traits and disease susceptibility.
The two types of tests, in fact, would complement one another nicely, so there is no reason to choose one of the other. Etalon, like 5 Strands, uses hair samples for testing.
Etalon Diagnostics offers a handful of different packages focusing on health, ancestry, and/or color. The Mini Panel Plus tests genetics related to both coat colors and health and costs $159. Over 60 different traits are tested for, notifying you of your horse’s propensity for a variety of diseases, including (but not limited to): dwarfism, equine metabolic syndrome, foal immunodeficiency syndrome, hoof wall separation disease, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, and lordosis (swayback).
This package also tests for a number of color genes, including agouti, champagne, cream, dun, grey, silver, sabino, and tobiano. If I were planning to breed my mares, I would very seriously consider this test.
While the Mini Panel Plus is a great value in overall genetic testing, if you are only interested in testing for one of the diseases or colors, you can purchase an individual test for $40.
Like Etalon Diagnostics, Animal Genetics offers DNA testing for a variety of health (disease), color, and ancestry traits. They also test for athletic traits, including speed and distance, gait, and tests specific to racing horses. Tests are purchased individually, and most fall into the range of $25 – $95 (the more expensive testing being those that test for speed, endurance, and gait traits).
While the preferred sample for most of Animal Genetics’ tests is hair (around 40 pulled mane or tail hairs), the lab also accepts blood and semen samples. If you plan to send in non-hair samples, call them first to ensure that they send you the appropriate collection containers.
In addition to online health testing companies, many breed registries offer genetic testing as well. Genetic testing is often considered to be of high importance to registries, as individuals who will pass undesirable traits (like diseases) to their offspring will want to be discouraged from breeding.
If your horse is registered, check the registry to find out if they offer DNA testing. Many of them test for the genetic diseases most associated with the breed. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association will test for hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, polysaccharide storage myopathy, malignant hyperthermia, glycogen branching enzyme deficiency, and hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia.
The American Paint Horse Association tests for the same diseases and adds in overo lathal white syndrome. Testing costs can vary, but the APHA testing, for example, will cost you $125.
While other companies like 5 Strands will test for these same diseases and many more, if you are planning to breed your registered horse, the association may require that you obtain health panels through the registry.
Horse Health Testing With Universities
Many universities throughout the country focus on equine and livestock health sciences. These include UC Davis, Texas A&M, Cornell, and Ohio State University. Many of these organizations offer health services to the public.
I have a friend who’s taken deceased chickens to their closest veterinary sciences university for necropsies (they charged $25, and most other universities are similarly reasonable). In addition to regular veterinary services, most of these universities offer health testing either as a package or a la carte.
For example, UC Davis offers a variety of health panels, including testing for fungal infections, bacteria, parasites, viruses, and toxicity/deficiency tests. A veterinarian must order some of these, but many of the genetic tests can be purchased by the horse owner, including their 5-panel genetic test for $95.
If you are interested in genetic testing for your horse, it would be wise to start with your local veterinary university. You can also order testing through a university that is several states away from you. However, I’ve found it is helpful to become acquainted with your local university as they provide another option for equine and livestock health care in case it is ever needed.
At-home Horse Health Testing Will Continue to Become More Common
Laboratories are where innovation comes to life, and this is no more true than in the case of health sciences for both humans and animals. As discoveries continue to increase, so too will the availability of valuable health testing.
Whether you are looking for information on your horse’s susceptibility to specific genetic disorders, the likelihood that your horse is reacting to a specific food or environmental trigger, or even your horse’s parasite load, there is a test that you can find online to fit your needs. As we all know, in caring for ourselves, our children, or our pets, knowledge – especially health knowledge – is empowering and can lead to a positive change in our everyday lives.