Background: Sepsis is still a major cause of death in both human and veterinary medicine. Early diagnosis is essential for appropriate treatment. Identification of patients at risk for developing sepsis is already possible in human medicine through the measurement of plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. In veterinary medicine, however, this has been investigated only in canine experimental models. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to measure IL-6 plasma levels in dogs with naturally occurring systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and sepsis and to analyze the value of IL-6 as a predictive parameter for severity and mortality. Methods: Included in the study were 79 dogs that had been admitted to the small animal clinics of Munich and Berlin from July 2004 to July 2005 and that satisfied the diagnostic criteria for SIRS and sepsis as defined using established parameters. Measurement of plasma IL-6 levels on days 0, 1, and 2 was performed by the use of a colorimetric bioassay based on IL-6–dependent cell growth. Results: Septic foci were identified in 43 patients (septic group), and 36 patients were enrolled in the SIRS group. The frequency of positive blood cultures was 11%. The overall mortality rate was 48%. Higher plasma IL-6 levels on the day of admission were significantly correlated with a more severe degree of disease, increased mortality rate, and earlier fatality. Conclusions: Plasma IL-6 concentration is predictive of outcome in canine SIRS and sepsis and may be a valuable laboratory parameter for assessing critically ill dogs.