Animal Health

Duration (approx)

100 hours


Statement of Attainment

animal health

A substantial foundation course

You probably already know that to succeed in working with animals that you must have a keen interest in animals and the desire to spend many hours working with them. But, think about how much of an advantage you could have if you also have a knowledge of animal health.

Learn to see the signs of ill health and understand the possible causes of decline in the health of animals on a farm; or anywhere else.

This is a solid introduction to animal health, where you learn to assess animal health, explain a variety of conditions and identify appropriate treatments or responses to a range of more common complaints or illnesses.

Learn about:

  • Disease classification
  • Causes and diagnosis of disease
  • Fever and immunity
  • Tissue repair
  • Inflammation
  • Cell changes

and much more.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Animal Health –
    • Learn to describe common diseases affecting farm animals and the circumstances under which animals contract these diseases – the healthy animal, causes of ill health, preventing ill health
  2. Signs & Symptoms of Diseases –
    • The physical symptoms of diseases in farm animals – common methods of handling animals during health assessments, recognising ill health, restraining a horse, sheep handling facilities
  3. Disease Classification –
    • Methods used in classifying animal diseases
    • viral diseases, bacterial diseases, parasitic diseases, protozoal diseases, disease types in beef cattle, diseases in sheep
  4. Causes and Diagnosis of Disease –
    • The causes of disease and the relevant methods of diagnosis – examining cattle, examining a horse, ticks, tick-borne diseases, diagnosis of diseases
  5. Treatment of Disease –
    • Methods used in the treatment of diseases in farm animals – vaccination, the animal first aid kit, tetanus antiserum, animal nursing, quarantine, slaughter, post mortem, disease prevention in cattle, disease prevention in sheep, treatment of parasites in sheep
  6. Inflamation –
    • Outline the nature and causes of inflammation in farm animals – the inflammatory response, causes of inflammation, types of inflammation, symptoms of inflammation, inflammatory exudate, treatment of inflammation
  7. Fever and Immunity –
    • The biological mechanisms underlying fever and the immune system in farm animals – the fever mechanism, other temperature related disorders, effect of temperature on enzymes, immunity
  8. Tissue Repair –
    • The biological mechanisms underlying tissue repair in farm animals – healing of a clean incised wound, healing of an open wound, common horse ailments to recognise
  9. Wounds –
    • The biological mechanisms of wounds in farm animals and address different treatment methods for repair of common ailments – types of wounds, first aid treatments, bandaging horses, emergencies
  10. Cell changes –
    • The causes and biological mechanisms of cell change in farm animals – neoplasms, tumours and cancers, the course of an infectious disease, death, cancers etc.

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 common health problems affecting animals, including the circumstances under which animals contract health problems, and methods used to prevent the development of ill health.
  • Analyse physical indicator symptoms of ill health in animals.
  • Determine the taxonomic class of animal pests and diseases.
  • Explain the diagnostic characteristics of the main types of animal pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Explain the methods used in the treatment of pests and diseases in farm animals.
  • Explain the role of inflammation, including it’s symptoms and causes, in animals.
  • Explain the biological processes which affect and control the immune system in animals.
  • Explain the biological processes which affect and control tissue repair in animals.
  • Determine procedures for the management of wounds to animals, on a farm.
  • Explain the processes involved in cellular change in animals.
  • Diagnose simple health problems in farm animals.

What You Will Do

  • List criteria used to assess the health status, including ill-health, of animals.
  • Describe the different causes of ill-health in animals.
  • Explain the methods used to prevent ill-health in animals.
  • Write a standard procedure for a routine health examination of a chosen farm animal.
  • Describe the symptoms of ill-health in animals.
  • Compare the causes of two symptomatically similar health problems for a specified farm animal.
  • Diagnose a health problem from a given set of symptoms.
  • Distinguish, using labelled illustrations, between different taxonomic classes of animal pest and disease organisms.
  • Describe identifying characteristics of four different disease carrying agents of specified farm animals.
  • Classify commonly occuring pests and diseases of three different animals, into their taxonomic classes.
  • Describe the characteristics of viruses, using illustrations and a report.
  • Describe the characteristics of bacteria, using illustrations and a report.
  • Describe the characteristics of protozoa, using illustrations and a report.
  • Describe the characteristics of parasites, using illustrations and a report.
  • Describe the characteristics of nutritional disorders, using illustrations and a report.
  • Analyse the relevance of ten specified factors, to determining the health of a chosen species of farm animal.
  • Describe the veterinary treatments available over the counter for on-farm use.
  • Explain the vaccination programs used to treat two different specifies of farm animal.
  • Describe the applications and techniques used for dips, to control external parasites in a specified farm animal.
  • List the essential items for a First Aid Kit for a specified farm animal.
  • Write guidelines for general procedures to follow when nursing sick farm animals.
  • List the procedures employed in quarantine, using a chosen animal as an example.
  • Describe the procedures for slaughtering a diseased ruminant in order to conduct a post-mortem examination.
  • Prepare an illustrated, one page report on the post-mortem procedures of a ruminant.
  • Compare two different methods used to control a specified disease in farm animals.
  • Identify a suitable method of control for ten different, specified pests and diseases of farm animals.
  • Differentiate between at least five factors which cause inflammation in animals.
  • Develop a checklist for analysing inflammation in a chosen farm animal species.
  • Explain the inflammatory response in a specific case study.
  • Compare the different methods used to control inflammation in animals.
  • Describe the function of the immune system in animals.
  • List the agents which can cause fevers in animals.
  • Explain the biology of fevers in a specified case study of a farm animal species.
  • Explain the methods used in treating fevers in animals.
  • Explain at least five factors which influence immune response in animals.
  • Explain the characteristics of the immune system in a chosen farm animal species.
  • Describe the composition of tissues at three different body sites, in terms of susceptibility to different types of internal and external damage.
  • Compare the characteristics of different types of tissue damage.
  • List factors, in terms of both rate of, and quality of repair; which influence tissue repair.
  • Explain the biological processes, which occur as damaged tissue heals in animals.
  • Compare the different effects of wounding, including psychological, physiological and anatomical, to three different parts of a specified animals body.
  • Explain the different biological processes which occur following wounding, including: tissue repair and infection.
  • Develop a checklist for the treatment of wounds in farm animals.
  • List an appropriate treatment for each of five different types of wounds to 4 different species of farm animals.
  • Describe post care treatment of the wounds as discussed above.
  • Determine the potential causes of wounding of farm animals.
  • Develop guidelines for prevention of wounds to farm animals, based on the potential causes identified above.
  • Describe the different causes of cellular change in animals.
  • Explain the general processes associated with cancer at a cellular level, in animals.
  • Explain the cellular processes associated with death of animal tissue.
  • List the factors which influence the rate and extent of cellular change in diseased animals.
  • Monitor the health condition of a farm animal over a four month period.
  • Observe, and prepare a report, on the veterinarians diagnostic process/ health assessment methodology, when inspecting three different farm animals.
  • Diagnose the cause of three different health problems, detected in three different genera of farm animals.
  • Develop a checklist of the diagnostic indicators of common health problems, which occur in three different farm animal species.

What Causes Ill Health in Animals?


An injury can cause disease in two different ways:

  • The animal may be injured in a way that it cannot function properly. The injury might be localised (e.g. a bruise or lameness), which can be treated and put right fairly easily); or it may be severe (e.g. a broken leg), which could require the animal to be destroyed. In general, treating serious injuries is a matter of economics on the farm. If the cost of treatment is greater than the value of the animal, then the animal may be best destroyed.’
  • The injury may cause tissues to be exposed through wounds, which subsequently become infected by bacteria and other organisms. Examples of such diseases include blood poisoning, septic wounds, gangrene and tetanus (lockjaw).


Poisons cause chemical processes to occur inside the animal, which lead to degeneration and death of body cells. There are two types of poisons:

  • Those present in plants eaten by animals. Some weeds which grow in pasture can be a problem and other weeds can change the flavour of milk, affecting its market value.
  • Those which are chemicals (e.g. pesticides) which contaminate the animal by accident. In some cases, an ingesting excess of a useful mineral (e.g. iron, fluorine, sulphur or selenium) can cause poisoning.

Hereditary Conditions

Inherited characteristics can cause certain cells in the body to degenerate. An example of this is “dwarfing” in calves.

Nutritional Problems

Feeding is a factor which has a great effect on the health of farm animals, in any of the following ways:

  • Feeding too little or too much food to the animal. Too little food will cause a loss of production from the animal, and in severe cases may lead to malnutrition and death from starvation. Over feeding can lead to animals becoming over fat and unhealthy.
  • Feeding a ration which is not balanced for the particular animal’s needs. Deficiencies of protein, major minerals, trace elements, vitamins, and even water; can lead to many different deficiency diseases.
  • Feeding a ration that contains a substance that is toxic to the animal.
  • Allowing the animal to eat food or to drink water that has been contaminated by bacteria or by parasites such as worms.
  • The health of the animal can be affected positively by feeding a diet that increases its resistance to bacterial disease.

Living Organisms

This is the commonest cause of ill health in animals, and the organisms involved are:

  • Micro organisms – such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa.
  • Parasites – such as worms, ticks, lice and insects.

Micro organisms

  • Bacteria

Bacteria are small organisms belonging to the plant kingdom. They consist of single cells, but when they multiply, cells often remain joined together, so that they appear to be multicellular.

Bacteria reproduce in a very simple way: The bacteria enlarge, and a cell wall develops across the middle. The two new halves then separate to become two new bacteria.

This process can be completed in twenty minutes, so that if conditions are good and plenty of food is available, thousands of millions of bacteria can be produced from a single cell in 24 hours. This very rapid multiplication accounts for the rapid course of a disease, and the way in which a disease can spread throughout a herd in a short time.

Examples of diseases caused by bacteria include: Anthrax, Brucellosis, Lumpy Jaw, Mastitis and Tetanus. It must be emphasised however, that not all bacteria cause disease. Many live inside or on the skin of an animal and cause no ill effects.

  • Fungi

Fungi are plants. Some are large (e.g. mushrooms), and others are so small that they can only be seen under a microscope. They start from a single cell, and spread by simple division to form long threads. Fungi also produce spores which are released and spread the disease over a wide area. Ringworm is an example of a disease caused by a fungus.

  • Viruses

Viruses are the smallest living organisms at present know. Viruses are a most highly infectious form of disease. They live within the cells of other living organisms, and as such are difficult to treat without also affecting the cells which they inhabit. Viruses are highly infectious.

Examples of virus diseases include: swine fever, foot and mouth disease, fowl pest, cattle plague and the common cold.

  • Protozoa

Protozoa are single cells, but unlike bacteria, they are animals. There are many different kinds of protozoa, some of which cause diseases in humans or in animals. In many cases, the disease is transmitted by flies or other insects.

Examples of diseases caused by protozoa include: Redwater (transmitted by ticks), East Coast Fever and Sleeping Sickness (transmitted by the tsetse fly in Africa) and malaria in humans (transmitted by insects).


Parasitic Worms (Helminths) are invertebrate multi cellular animals. There are two types of parasitic worms:

  • Roundworms
  • Flatworms (Flukes or Tapeworms)

Worms often have complex life cycles, spent partly in the infested animal, and partly outside (either in a different animal, or not inside any organism). When inside an animal, they may remain in the one part of the body, or they may travel, passing through different organs.

Wherever worms are in a body, they are a foreign system, competing with the body for nourishment. They don’t reproduce as fast as bacteria or fungi, but a single organism is much larger and can cause a lot of damage. They can still reproduce relatively fast, and may develop into large numbers over a relatively short period. When worms are present in an animal, they usually cause ill health either by using the food the animal would have otherwise used; or by directly damaging an organ, or tissue.

All worms are classified as endoparasites because they live inside their animal host.

External parasites include ticks, lice and various other Insects. They are collectively called ectoparasites, because they live outside the host animal; either biting or sucking blood from the animal. This group can be divided into two:

  • Arachnids – ticks and mites (adult ticks and mites have eight legs)
  • Insects (adult insects have six legs)

How the Course can Benefit You 

Studying Animal Health enables you to understand the needs of animals in your care and how to recognise illness and make informed decisions for the best course of action in individual cases.

This course can be studied on its own…

Alternatively, this course will give you the most benefit when combined with Animal Husbandry 1 and Animal Husbandry 3.

It can also be taken as part of a Certificate or higher level qualification.

Opportunities for After Your Studies

You would benefit from this course if you:

  • Are already working in (or have a goal to work in) animal health care
  • Want to go on to further study in this field
  • Are a farmer

Enrol today!

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