The records of 65 horses with peritonitis examined at two UK referral centres over a period of 12 years were reviewed. Peritonitis was defined in terms of the horse's peritoneal fluid containing more than 5 x 10(9) nucleated cells/l. Horses that had developed peritonitis after abdominal surgery or a rupture of the gastrointestinal tract were excluded. of the 65 horses, 56 (86 per cent) survived to be discharged. Follow-up information was obtained from practice records and telephone calls to the owners for 38 of the horses. Of these, 32 (84 per cent) had survived for at least 12 months and were considered to be long-term survivors; the others six were euthanased within 12 months. Thirteen (34 per cent) of the horses discharged had experienced complications that could have been sequelae to peritonitis and eight of the 13 were euthanased. The cause of the peritonitis was identified in 15 cases; survival rates were lowest in horses with peritonitis secondary to urinary tract involvement or intra-abdominal masses. Of the other 50 cases, 47 (94 per cent) survived to discharge, but two were euthanased owing to recurrent colic.