• abdominocentesis;
  • celiotomy or laparotomy;
  • colic;
  • fever;
  • peritoneal fluid


Objective: To compare clinical findings in horses/foals with peritonitis that: (1) had no concurrent (NCA) versus a concurrent abnormality found during hospitalization, (2) survived to discharge versus did not survive to discharge, and (3) survived to discharge without surgery versus did not survive to discharge without surgery.

Design: Retrospective study.

Setting: George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center.

Animals: Horses/foals admitted between 1992 and 2002 with a diagnosis of peritonitis. A diagnosis of peritonitis within 4 days of presentation and peritoneal fluid nucleated cell count >10,000/μL were required for study inclusion. Horses/foals were excluded if the peritonitis was secondary to gastrointestinal or reproductive tract perforation, a complication of exploratory celiotomy, or if peritonitis was not diagnosed until surgery or necropsy.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: Information obtained from the medical records included clinical findings at presentation and during the initial 4 days of hospitalization. Outcome was defined as: (1) NCA (yes/no), (2) survived to discharge (yes/no), and (3) survived to discharge without surgery (yes/no). Forty-two percent (23/55) of horses/foals had NCA; 78% (43/55) survived to discharge, and 68% (36/55) survived to discharge without surgery. Horses/foals with peritonitis that had any one of the following clinical findings were likely to survive to discharge without surgery: no signs of abdominal pain, normal/improved rectal temperature, normal/improved intestinal borborygmi, normal fecal production, no abnormal findings on abdominal palpation per rectum, no nasogastric reflux, or yellow/orange peritoneal fluid.

Conclusion: Clinical findings can be used to identify equine peritonitis cases that will respond favorably to medical therapy.