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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment


Improve your treatment of the animals you work with.

  • Understand more about animal health.
  • Learn to examine animals - recognise problems before they become serious.
  • Understand diagnostic procedures used in identifying diseases.
  • Improve your business and/or career prospects.
  • Taught and written by experts in the field.

It helps for animal owners to understand and be able to recognise diseases conditions that may affect their animals, so that timely intervention can occur.


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  • Develop a foundation for further learning about animal health
  • Understand how far you can legally go with examining animals for health issues, and at what point you need to call in a veterinary professional.
  • Study this course and better understand how veterinary professionals systematically investigate and determine health issues in animals.
Routine disease investigations are based on clinical, pathological and epidemiological evidence. If there is a need for conclusive identification of a disease or condition, an accurate laboratory diagnosis should be obtained. It is particularly important, especially in the case of infectious diseases that the final diagnosis rests on adequate aetiological evidence. In most cases disease investigations are carried out by qualified government stock inspectors and/or veterinarians. It helps for animal owners to understand and be able to recognise diseases conditions that may affect their animals, so that timely intervention can occur.
(Note: The professionals involved and regulations governing their scope of operation can vary from one country to another).


This course has ten lessons:
Lesson 1. How Animal Diseases are Diagnosed

Conducting  clinical examinations, gross and clinical pathology, information to collect and how to collect it (live animal and necropsy samples), specialist support services to assist in diagnosis (i.e. types of laboratories, specialist vets etc.).

Lesson 2. Diagnostic Testing

Pathways followed to detect and diagnose different types of diseases, information to be supplied with samples for diagnostic testing, and diagnostic techniques

Lesson 3. Viral Diseases

Characteristics of viruses and the significance of a range of viral diseases that affect animals. You will study viral taxonomy, types and structure of viruses, virus replication cycle, transmission, and some common viral conditions.

Lesson 4. Bacteria and Fungal Diseases

This lesson looks at the characteristics of bacterial and fungal organisms. Topics include: laboratory identification, controlling infections, specimen collection, and important disease conditions.

Lesson 5. Parasitological Conditions

Discuss and differentiate a range of conditions that are caused by parasites. Topics include: Terminology and classification, life cycles, protozoa, helminths, and arthropods.

Lesson 6. Metabolic and Nutritional Conditions

Lesson covers a range of common metabolic conditions affecting cattle, horses, pigs, sheep/goats, cats and dogs

Lesson 7. Poisoning

Discuss and differentiate some common disorders that result from poisoning or toxins. These include: Cardio-respiratory, Central Nervous System (CNS), dermatological, gastrointestinal, hepatological, and haematological disorders.

Lesson 8. Inherited Conditions (Genetic Disorders)

Discuss types of genetic inheritance, and give examples of genetic diseases affecting horses, dogs, and cats.

Lesson 9. Other Conditions and Disorders

Identify and discuss miscellaneous conditions such as allergies, dehydration, and age related conditions.

Lesson 10. Research Project

In this project you will evaluate symptoms of ill-health or disease displayed by a set of animals, and go through the process of identifying the problem and deciding on a course of treatment.

Common signs of an ill or injured animal

It is impossible for even the best educated animal health expert to monitor every aspect of an animal's health all the time. On a farm, the farmer can have hundreds of animals to deal with; and in a zoo, the zoo keeper may be dealing with even more. Routine and regular blood tests and medical scans are expensive, invasive, and can be distressing to the animals. 
There are, however, simple indicators of ill health, which a well trained animal expert should be able to detect with little more than a glance at the animal. Learning to manage animal health involves learning to notice things such as the following; knowing what these indicators mean, and knowing how to respond to them. 
  • The animal not eating as much as usual – this is usually the first sign you will notice
  • It may also drink more or less water than normal, depending on the illness.
  • An animal standing by itself away from the herd
  • Animal limping or dragging a leg
  • Discharge from eyes, nose, or vaginal area
  • There may be abnormal lumps
  • The eyes may be dull and the mucous membranes may have changed colour. Deep red membranes indicate fever; pale membranes show anaemia; yellow membranes indicate a liver disorder, while blue-red membranes show heart and circulatory problems, or pneumonia.
  • Animal making unusual noise (bellowing, grunting)
  • Animal acting uncomfortable, getting up and down
  • The animal might be sweating. A cold sweat indicates pain, while a hot sweat indicates fever.
  • If the animal is in pain, it will probably be restless (getting up and down and pacing about), and it may even be groaning
  • Diarrhoea or straining to defecate
  • Animal not defecating or with very little stool
  • Animal urinating a lot, or not as much as usual
  • Marked weight loss or gain
  • The coat will look dull and dry, and the hairs may stand up.
  • There may the presence of open sores, dandruff, or the loss of hair or fur from the body
  • Behavioural signs - Recognise any significant differences in the behaviour of an animal such as increases in viciousness, lethargy or any other abnormal signs such as excessive head shaking, scratching, licking or biting of certain parts of the body
  • The vital signs of a sick animal will change. The temperature may go up or down. A rise in temperature of one or two degrees usually indicates pain, while a rise of more usually indicates infection.
  • The rate of respiration, and the way the animal breathes could also slow changes. With pain or infection, breathing becomes more rapid. In a very sick animal, breathing can be laboured and shallow.
  • A slightly increased pulse rate suggests pain, while a rapid pulse suggests fever. An irregular pulse can indicate heart trouble. In a very sick animal, the pulse is weak and feeble.
  • A sick animal may also possess foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on the teeth.

Record Keeping is Important

It is important that anyone working with animals is capable of keeping accurate and comprehensive records e.g. the condition of animal, the work or treatment carried out, any additional needs of the animal or any incidents involving the animal. Historical information about individual animals can form a basis for improving husbandry practices and veterinary procedures.

Avoid the use of paper by keeping electronic records. Some information regarding taxation and accounts must be retained for legal purposes. Other information about accidents or workplace injuries should be kept on file for future reference. Organising records and information is part of the professional groomer’s role.

Create a database or spreadsheet from the beginning of business operations to help you keep accurate records of the animals and clients you work with.

Accessing the right information online
Information can also be provided easily for various species online. There a number of databases which keep accurate and transparent records for all kinds of animals being looked after by organisations such as wildlife parks and zoos.

The usual kinds of information found online about species cared for in parks, zoos etc. include:

  • Sex – male/female/unknown.
  • Species – scientific name.
  • Individual identification numbers.
  • Enclosure – original enclosure (if animal is being transferred).
  • Population information – life history (e.g. births, deaths, transfers, parents of individual and any other relevant population information).
  • Husbandry Information – enrichment used, changes in diet (if required), training and conditioning used, changes in social-structure, levels of interaction with humans and types of interactions.
  • Medical Information – treatment received, physical condition, any previous injuries, faecal samples and veterinary check information.
  • Animal Information – notes on behaviour, reproductive behaviour and social interactions.
  • Other relevant information – additional information about original enclosure, local climate and the location of the animal in the zoo.
To access the data held on records, generally you will need to be eligible to register as an employee of the park/zoo/organisation. If you are employed by an organisation and you work closely with animals, you will be expected to keep these records up to date by adding your own data via the parks own record keeping system.

If you do not need this level of information, you will always find a range of relevant information relating the species of animals you work on using credible online resources.

Who should study this course?

This course is suitable for -

  • veterinarians
  • veterinary staff
  • animal rescue staff
  • farmers and farming staff
  • pet stores staff
  • dog groomers
  • dog breeders
  • dog boarders

Why Study This Course?

This course -

  • Is a great addition to your CV or resume
  • Will improve your job and career prospects in animal care and husbandry
  • Increase your knowledge of animal diseases. This is useful for anyone working with animals.
  • Expand or updating your existing knowledge of animal disease
  • Study by distance learning or online learning to fit in with your home and work committments.

Any Questions?

This course will enable you to learn more about animal diseases.

If you are not sure if this is the course for you, our animal studies tutors can answer any questions.

Please click here to contact a tutor Or Request a course handbook here.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Alison Pearce (animal)B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Masters Degree in Ecotourism. P.G.Cert. Ed. (Science). Alison's first job was in 1982 as a stockwoman, working with pigs in Yorkshire. Within a few years she of that she was working for the University of Western Australia as a Research Technician and instructor with their school of Agricultural Science.In 1989 she moved to Melbourne University as Unit Manager and Instructor in Animal Husbandry. By the mid 1990's she moved back to England to work in Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing at Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture. Throughout her career, Alison has developed and delivered courses in veterinary nursing and animal sciences for vocational colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand and Australia. She has built a high level of expertise and an outstanding international reputation as an expert in animal sciences.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.
Cheryl McLardyA scientist, teacher, writer and animal scientist, with more than 20 years experience including: Sports Horse Stud Groom, Stable Manager, Yard Manager, Equine industrial Training Manager, FE Distance Learning Manager. Cheryl has travelled widely, working in England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand; and is now based in Scotland. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons), Higher National Diploma in Horse Management, and a City and Guilds Teaching Certificate.

Check out our eBooks

Animal PsychologyExplore how animals think and comare how this differs between different animals (and humans)
Working with AnimalsIf you enjoy interacting with animals, are interested in biological science, or are passionate about wildlife, pets or farming; you may thrive in the type of jobs outlined in this book. Get to know more about the industries and the occupations that you could do. The Working with Animals ebook is a comprehensive catalogue to inspire you in your career in working with animals!
PoultryPoultry are entertaining as pets and life sustaining as a commercial product! Whether you are seeking a book as a beginner poultry keeper or if you are embarking on a new career in poultry production or management, this book is for you. Easy to read, easy to understand and packed with easy to implement practical advice. Know how to care for the health and wellbeing of poultry and make production a commercially viable enterprise.
Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.