Animal Anatomy & Physiology

Understanding the basics of animal anatomy and physiology will help you manage and care for your animals.

Appropriate for beginners and intermediate students alike, this course will help you learn the baselines for animal health and biological systems.

Duration (approx)

100 hours


Statement of Attainment

Animal Anatomy & Physiology

Discover what makes  animals tick…

Understanding the basics of animal anatomy and physiology will help you manage and care for your animals.

Appropriate for beginners and intermediate students alike, this course will help you learn the baselines for animal health and biological systems. It will help you:

  • understand how to diagnose disease
  • determine if an animal has sustained an injury
  • understand the physical capabilities or limitations of particular species
  • understand what happens in the nutrition and growth processes

You will study:

  • cells and tissues,
  • the skeletal system
  • the digestive system,
  • the circulatory system,
  • the urinary system,
  • the nervous system,
  • the respiratory system,
  • the reproductive system,
  • muscles and meat,
  • animal growth, and development,
  • and the endocrine system.

What is Anatomy? What is Physiology?

The term anatomy refers to the science that deals with the form and structure of animals. Physiology deals with the study of functions of the body or any of its parts. A thorough knowledge of the structure of an animal imparts a lot of information about the various functions it is capable of performing.

This knowledge is essential if you want to work with animals in any capacity.

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to cells & tissues
    • livestock classes
    • livestock products
    • interrelationship between crops and livestock
    • cells and tissues
    • special properties of cells
    • osmosis
    • nutrient waste
  2. The Digestive System
    • digestive system
    • mouth, tongue, teeth,
    • oesophagus
    • simple stomach
    • small intestine
    • large intestine
    • ruminant stomach
    • accessory organs of the digestive system
    • digestion
    • absorption and utilisation in the simple stomach
    • enzymes
    • breakdown by microorganisms
    • digestion, absorption and utilisation in the ruminant stomach
    • mechanical action
    • action of micro-organisms
    • utilisation of the end products of digestion
  3. The Circulatory System
    • circulatory system
    • composition of blood
    • functions of blood
    • clotting mechanism
    • immunity
    • blood vessels
    • arteries
    • veins
    • capillaries
    • physiology of the circulatory system
    • rates of heart beats
    • spleen
    • lymphatic system
    • circulatory networks
  4. The Urinary System
    • anatomy of the urinary system
    • kidneys
    • ureter
    • bladder
    • physiology of urinary system
    • excretion in different animals
  5. The Nervous System
    • central and peripheral nervous system
    • main parts of the nervous system
    • neurons
    • sensory neurons
    • motor neurons
    • central nervous system
    • the brain
    • spinal cord
    • peripheral nervous system
    • cranial nerves
    • spinal nerves
    • autonomic nervous system
    • reflex actions
    • endocrine system
    • structure and function of the ear
    • hearing
    • structure and function of the eye
    • the iris
    • structure and function of the nose
  6. Respiration
    • anatomy of respiration
    • trachea
    • bronchial tree
    • lungs
    • physiology of respiration
    • gaseous exchange
    • rate and depth of breathing
  7. The Reproductive System
    • anatomy of the male reproductive system
    • testes
    • accessory organs
    • penis
    • physiology of male reproductive system
    • hormone production
    • sperm production
    • erection
    • ejaculation
    • fertility problems in males
    • venereal diseases
    • other diseases
    • injury
    • physical immaturity
    • emotional immaturity
    • nutrition
    • poor handling
    • anatomy of female reproductive system
    • ovaries
    • fallopian tubes
    • uterus
    • cervix
    • physiology of the female reproductive system
    • ovulation, oestrus cycle
    • fertility problems, difficulties conceiving
    • venereal and other diseases
    • physical abnormalities
    • nutrition
    • inability to carry a foetus to full-term
    • pregnancy and parturition
    • fertilisation
    • pregnancy
    • parturition
    • birth process
    • difficult births
    • structure of the mammary glands
    • secretion of milk
    • milk ejection
    • reproduction data for cows, sows and ewes
  8. Muscles & Meat
    • muscles and meat
    • smooth muscle
    • striated voluntary muscle
    • cardiac muscle
    • structure of meat
    • dressing out percentage
    • composition of the beef animal
    • meat quality and tenderness
    • juiciness
    • flavour
    • cuts and joints of meat
  9. The Skeleton
    • bones
    • how bones are formed
    • anatomy of bones
    • fractures and fracture healing
    • five types of bone
    • joints of bone
    • the skeleton
    • dentition
    • the dental formula
    • cattle
    • dental formula of an ox and cow
    • eruption of permanent teeth
    • pigs
  10. Animal Growth, Development, and the Endocrine System
    • growth and development
    • growth curve
    • prenatal growth
    • post-natal growth
    • fat
    • factors which affect the size of newborns
    • factors affecting post-natal growth
    • early maturing
    • compensatory growth
    • endocrine system
    • pituitary gland
    • thyroid
    • parathyroid
    • thymus
    • adrenal bodies
    • pancreas
    • testes
    • ovaries
    • pineal body
    • mucous membrane of the stomach
  11. Comparing Different Animals
    • poultry
    • digestion
    • gullet
    • crop
    • proventriculus
    • gizzard
    • intestine
    • caecum
    • rectum
    • incubating eggs
    • natural incubation
    • symptoms of a broody hen
    • fish

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school’s tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the structure of animals, including bones, organs, cells and tissues.
  • Explain the digestion of animals.
  • Explain the circulatory system of animals.
  • Explain the structure and function of the animal urinary system.
  • Explain the nervous system of animals.
  • Explain the respiratory system of animals.
  • Explain the animal reproductive system.
  • Explain the muscular system in animals.
  • Explain the skeletal system of a typical mammal.
  • Explain biological mechanisms underlying the growth and development of animals.
  • Explain the endocrine system of animals.
  • Explain differences between different types of animals, in terms of both structure and function.

Learning is Your First Step to Better Animal Management

An understanding of animal anatomy and physiology is important for people working in a range of industries, especially those working with livestock, domestic pets and wildlife. This course focuses mainly on mammal species, however, some other more developed animals are also included; and it provides a very sound introduction to understanding both the structural anatomy and functional physiology of animals.

Before you can properly understand how an animal grows, moves, processes food, gets ill, or anything else -you must first understand what it is (the parts it is made of), and how it functions (the way each of those parts operates).

  • Structure (anatomy) deals with the different parts of the animal body, such as; cells, tissues, bone, and muscle.
  • Function (physiology) covers the different systems that are at work in animal body, such as; digestive, loco motor, urinary, and reproductive systems.

How Does an Animal Sustain and Grow itself?

Consider how nutrients pass from the arteries into the cells and how the waste products pass from the cells into the veins.

Both arteries and veins are spread throughout the body. Arteries take oxygenated blood away from the heart to the various parts of the body, and veins return the de-oxygenated blood back to the heart and lung. To begin with, they are large tubes about the width of a little finger. They have thick walls.  As an artery spreads out, it divides into branches and get progressively smaller and narrower until finally they become very fine, thread-like tubes called capillaries.  Capillaries have very thin walls and are the place where arterial system and the venous system connect up with each other.

Between the capillaries and the cells to which the capillaries carry nutrients, there is a fluid called interstitial fluid.  (Interstitial means “intervening space”).  This fluid surrounds the cells and capillaries and acts as a connecting link.

The nutrients carried by the arteries pass through the walls of the artery to the capillaries and then travel through the interstitial fluid before passing through the walls of the cells.  Waste products pass in a similar way but in the opposite direction!  They travel through the cell walls; into the interstitial fluid and through the venous capillary walls.

Although this sounds a simple procedure, it is a complex operation that makes use of all the special properties of cells (such as osmosis, hydrostatic pressure and the electro-chemical gradient).


Growth is described as an increase in body weight.  Development is described as a change in body proportions.  Four processes are involved in producing the final form of an adult animal and these are:

Differentiation or the transformation of mother cells to different cell types.  For example mother cells change to form the specialised cells of the brain, kidneys, liver, intestines etc.  This process is irreversible – once these specialised organs have been formed the cells cannot change back to mother cells.
Morphogenesis or the organisation of cells into tissues, the building of tissues into organs and the development of organs into the whole body.
Growth is the sum total of the biological and chemical processes that start when the ovum is fertilised and end when the body attains a size and conformation that is characteristic of the species.
Development is the co-ordination of the diverse processes which end in an adult with a form or appearance that is characteristic of the species.  Development goes on for longer in higher species than in the less sophisticated animals.

Growth Curve

Although growth itself is a highly complex process, it is possible to draw up a graph for each type of animal showing the expected increase in body weight over time.  Such a graph is called a growth curve.

Puberty, which is the onset of sexual activity, occurs at about 30% of body weight i.e. when the animal has done about one third of its growth.  There are two phases of growth.  Phase 1 is called the self-accelerating phase because it is during this time that growth is most rapid.  Phase 2 is termed the self-inhibitory phase because the growth slows down and eventually stops altogether.

The point of inflection occurs in Phase 1 and is the time of fastest growth within this already quick growing phase.  It highlights the spurt of growth that occurs during puberty.  It is an important point as it is used to compare the physiological age in different species.


This course starts you off with the basics of animal anatomy and physiology which are fundamental to all types of work in the care of animals. Doing a course such as this shows you are serious about animals and their care.  It is aimed at:

  • Those working or wanting to work with animals but who don’t have any formal training.
  • Those working with animals (e.g. volunteers) to move into a paid career in this field or to improve their career prospects.
  • Those that want to gain access to further study.

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