Diagnosing Animal Diseases BAG219

Learn to Identify Animal Pests and Diseases

Study this course and gain a foundation that allows you to 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 etiological 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.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Structure

  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)
  2. Diagnostic Testing
    • Pathways followed to detect and diagnose different types of diseases
    • Information to be supplied with samples for diagnostic testing
    • Diagnostic techniques
  3. Viral Diseases
    • Characteristics of viruses
    • Viral taxonomy
    • Types and structure of viruses
    • Virus replication cycle
    • Transmission
    • Some common viral conditions
  4. Bacteria and Fungal Diseases
    • Characteristics of bacterial and fungal organisms
      • Laboratory identification
      • Controlling infections
      • Specimen collection
      • Important disease conditions
    • Parasitological Conditions
      • Discuss and differentiate a range of conditions that are caused by parasites
      • Terminology and classification
      • Life cycles
      • Protozoa
      • Helminths
      • Arthropods
    • Metabolic and Nutritional Conditions
      • Common metabolic conditions
      • Cattle
      • Horses
      • Pigs
      • Sheep/goats
      • Cats and dogs
    • Poisoning
      • Discuss and differentiate common disorders that result from poisoning or toxins
      • Cardiorespiratory
      • Central Nervous System (CNS)
      • Dermatological
      • Gastrointestinal
      • Hepatological
      • Haematological disorders
    • Inherited Conditions (Genetic Disorders)
      • Discuss types of genetic inheritance
      • Genetic diseases affecting horses
      • Genetic diseases affecting dogs
      • Genetic diseases affecting cats
    • Other Conditions and Disorders
      • Identify and discuss miscellaneous conditions
      • Allergies
      • Dehydration
      • Age-related conditions
    • Research Project
      • Evaluate symptoms of ill-health or disease displayed by a set of animals
      • Work through the process of identifying the problem and deciding on a course of treatment

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Recognising Diseases

The first step in disease recognition and control is being able to recognise when an animal or group of animals is unwell. By compiling information from the history of an animal or group of animals, conducting a physical examination, and undertaking special testing (if necessary) the veterinarian or government inspector is generally able to determine the cause of a condition or disease.

The following list outlines some of the more common signs that can be looked out for in an ill animal:

Common signs of an ill or injured animal:
  • The animal not eating as much as usual (often the first sign)
  • 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
  • Diarrhea 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

Signs of Illness in Detail

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

Vital Signs

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.

Pulse Rate

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.

Dental Changes

A sick animal may also possess foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on the teeth.

Depression in Animals

Seligman and colleagues studied depression in dogs at the University of Pennsylvania. He used a model on learned helplessness that has been related to humans. Learned helplessness is the term used for a condition in animals and humans where they have learned to behave in a “helpless” way. They have learned this in a variety of ways, for example, in the past, no matter what their action it did not change their situation or they perceive they do not have control over their situation. For example, a dog may whine and cry for food, but not be fed. If they are fed the food randomly and the whining is ignored, they may find that it does not matter what they do, they will only be fed when their owner decides to fed them, so they are helpless to change the situation. If a human child finds that no matter what they do, they cannot please their parents, they may learn that they cannot change their situation. So learned helplessness can develop.

Seligman et al separated dogs into three groups, a control group, then group A and B.In the “shock condition” part of the experiment, Group A had control over when they received an electric shock. Group B had no control. The control group were not shocked at all. The dogs were given curare, a paralysing drug, so that interfered with their normal escape behaviour.

After the shock condition, the dogs were placed into a box where they could escape the shock by jumping over a partition. They found that the dogs in the control group and the dogs in group A would jump over the partition to escape the shock, whilst dogs in Group B would just passively take the shock, as they appeared to have learned that they would get the shock no matter what they did.

Similar research has also been carried out on other species from fish to cats to Rhesus macaques.

So, do animals get depressed? In humans, depression is diagnosed by looking at their symptoms, such as loss of pleasure, suicidal thoughts, feelings of guilt, anxiety, sleeplessness, excessive sleeping. With animals, they are not able to communicate these thoughts and feelings, so we cannot really say whether they are depressed or not. But we can measure some aspects of depression in animals. Anhedonia, for example, is a loss of interest or reduced interest in pleasurable activities. Researchers can measure how much animals interact with other animals in their group, if they have changes in their daytime activities and sleep patterns. We can also examine how quickly an animal gives up when exposed to a stressful situation. For example, in a home with two dogs, one dog goes to the food bowl and the other dog growls at him. A fight starts about the food. The researcher can measure how quickly the dog gives up the fight for the food.

Non-human primates have been researched and trained observers have been able to ascertain whether a monkey looks depressed as they have emotional behaviours and facial expressions that are similar to humans. We can look at their facial expression and their gaze and this can indicate if an animal is experiencing sadness. One difficulty when studying animals in this way who are being studied in a laboratory is that they are being raised in fairly impoverished conditions compared to their natural habitat. This can causes changes in them that look like depression. There is not much research that looks at depression in the wild compared to laboratory settings at the moment. An animal who is depressed in the wild is possibly impairing their chances of survival. If we go back to the dog and the food fight, in the wild, if an animal quickly gives in, they may reduce their access to food or be more easily preyed on, reducing their chances of survival.

In captivity, animals may appear to show depression. Veterinarians do give anti-depressants to animals, in particular dogs. Dogs may suffer from being separated from their owner, so can develop abnormal behaviours, such as scratching themselves until they bleed, constant barking. It is thought that these forms of behaviour are canine versions of mental illness. Human anti-depressants and treatments do appear to work on dogs, but more research is also required on this.

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B 2 x $451.44  2 x $410.40

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