The clinical signs in 21 adult horses affected by peritonitis (unassociated with gastrointestinal rupture or surgical interference of the abdomen) included colic (18 cases), pyrexia (15 cases), weight loss (six cases) and diarrhoea (five cases). The diagnosis was based on a nucleated cell count in peritoneal fluid greater than 10(10)/litre. Haematological abnormalities (either neutropenia or neutrophilia) were present in 17 animals, and hyperfibrinogenaemia was identified in 14. Twelve of the 21 horses survived after intensive antibiotic therapy; the other nine were destroyed either at exploratory laparotomy or after continued clinical deterioration. Necrosis or perforation of the bowel wall was found post mortem in eight of the horses.