Sepsis, the systemic inflammatory response to infection, represents the major cause of death in critically ill veterinary patients. Whereas important advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology of this syndrome have been made, much remains to be elucidated. There is general agreement on the key interaction between pathogen-associated molecular patterns and cells of the innate immune system, and the amplification of the host response generated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. More recently, the concept of immunoparalysis in sepsis has also been advanced, together with an increasing recognition of the interplay between regulatory T cells and the innate immune response. However, the heterogeneous nature of this syndrome and the difficulty of modeling it in vitro or in vivo has both frustrated the advancement of new therapies and emphasized the continuing importance of patient-based clinical research in this area of human and veterinary medicine.