OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the postoperative inflammatory response of horses to elective surgery of varying intensity. STUDY DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal study. ANIMALS: Horses referred to 2 hospitals for either arthroscopic removal of a unilateral osteochondritic lesion in the tibiotarsal joint (minimal surgical trauma, n=11), correction of recurrent laryngeal neuropathy by laryngoplasty and ventriculectomy (intermediate surgical trauma, n=10) or removal of an ovarian tumor by laparotomy (major surgical trauma, n=5). METHODS: Horses had a thorough clinical examination every day. White blood cell (WBC) counts and concentrations of serum amyloid A (SAA), fibrinogen, and iron were assessed in blood samples obtained before, and 1-3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 days after surgery. Differences in levels of the inflammatory markers between the 3 surgical groups were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA. RESULTS: Postoperative concentrations of SAA and fibrinogen were significantly higher in horses that had laparotomy and ovariectomy than in horses that had laryngoplasty and ventriculectomy, or arthroscopy. Iron concentrations decreased to lower levels after intermediate and major surgical trauma than after small surgical trauma. WBC count did not differ between the 3 groups. CONCLUSIONS: Levels of SAA, fibrinogen, and iron reflected the intensity of the surgical trauma, whereas WBC count did not. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Postoperative measurements of SAA, fibrinogen, and iron may be useful for comparing surgical trauma associated with new and established surgical techniques. Moreover, knowledge of the normal postoperative acute phase response is essential, if acute phase reactants are to be used for monitoring occurrence of postoperative infections.