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Please note that if you choose the 'e-learning' (course on USB) method, be aware that due to current covid-19 restrictions there are some countries we can not send USB sticks to.

We recommend you choose the online learning method as all online courses provide access to download course notes to access offline or print. If you do require your course to be supplied on USB stick then please contact us first to check availability for your country.

Animal Health Care

Course CodeVAG100
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Study Animal Health Care with this online course from ACS Distance Education.

Do you want to work for a vet? Or as an animal care technician or assistant?

You can use this course as a vocational pathway toward employment in these industries.

Learn to care for the health of any type of animal and understand the scope of services offered by animal care services, including in veterinary practices. This course is appropriate for anyone interested in working with animals including on a farm, a wildlife park or a veterinary practice. It is a sound foundation course and designed to cover most of what is found in a typical veterinary assistants course in most countries around the world.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Animal Health Care
    • animal welfare and control
    • veterinary services
    • code of practice
    • transporting animals
  2. Common Health Problems
    • causes of ill health
    • injury
    • conditions
    • nutritional problems
    • living organisms
    • parasites
    • family pets common conditions
    • dogs
    • cats
    • caged birds
    • aquarium fish
    • mice
    • wild animals common conditions
    • reptiles
  3. Animal Behaviour
    • communication in dogs
    • scent
    • barking
    • body language
    • handling cats
    • bird language
    • types of behavior
    • time orientation
    • space orientation
    • territorial behavior
    • aggression
    • horse psychology
  4. Signs of Ill Health
    • vital signs
    • the healthy animal
    • signs & symptoms of diseases
    • recognising ill health
    • diagnosis of diseases
    • taking smears
    • taking tissue samples
    • diagnosis and control of different types of diseases including
    • viruses
    • bacteria
    • protozoa
    • parasites
    • mites
    • fleas
  5. Veterinary Facilities
    • first aid kit
    • record management
    • enclosure for animals
    • environmental requirements
  6. Safety Procedures
    • duty of care
    • lifting heavy weights
    • reducing back injury
    • protective equipment
    • dealing with chemicals
    • skin penetrating injuries
    • risk categories
    • separating animals
    • disposal of dead/infected tissues
    • dangerous non-animal wastes
    • storage and handling of medicines
    • handling larger animals
  7. Administration of Animal Health
    • animal insurance
    • quarantine
    • importing animals
    • managing a veterinary office
    • telephone usage
    • record keeping
    • filing information
  8. Animal First Aid
    • types of wounds
    • cuts
    • punctures
    • tears
    • treating and cleaning wounds
    • granulating wounds
    • stitching a wound
    • bone and joint problems
    • broken bones
    • tendon injury
    • poisoning
    • restraining animals during first aid
    • restraining cats
    • restraining dogs
    • restraining horses
    • restraining cattle
    • restraining sheep
  9. Preventative Health Care
    • diet
    • insect control
    • dip
    • vaccinate
    • avoid stressing livestock
    • vaccination
  10. Routine Health Treatments
    • de-sexing
    • castration
    • vasectomy
    • spaying
    • tubal ligation
    • castration of cats
    • dogs
    • pregnancy
    • gestation periods
    • euthanasia
    • anaesthesia and analgesia
    • preparing an animal for surgery
    • sterilising equipment
    • castrating a colt
  11. Health Problems in Domestic Pets
    • burns
    • urinary tract infections
    • shock
    • electrolytes
    • ticks
    • reptiles
    • fish problems
  12. Rehabilitation Care
    • animal nursing
    • planning a recovery

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.


  • Describe the scope of services offered by animal care services, including veterinary practices.
  • Describe common health problems in various animals, including injuries & diseases
    • causes of ill health
    • problems in family pets
  • Explain the natural behaviour of different types of domestic animals in different situations.
    • natural behaviour of animals
    • problems in wild animals
    • behaviour in domestic animals
  • Identify common signs of ill health in different animals.
    • vital signs
    • the healthy animal
    • signs & symptoms of disease
    • diagnosis & control of diseases
  • Describe the purposes of different facilities used in veterinary practice.
    • the first aid kit
    • enclosures for animals
  • Determine safety procedures for a veterinary practice.
    • workplace safety
    • health & safety for veterinary practices
  • Describe different administration procedures in a veterinary practice.
    • animal insurance
    • legal considerations
    • managing a veterinary office
  • Describe/select first aid procedures/treatments for different animals in response to common health problems in animals.
    • types of wounds
    • treatments
  • Describe requirements for maintaining good health in domestic animals, including nutrition & preventative medicine.
    • preventing ill health
    • vaccinations
  • Develop an understanding of routine treatments for healthy animals.
    • desexing
    • managing a pregnancy
    • euthanasia
  • Develop a broader awareness of health problems and their treatment in domestic pets.
    • ticks
    • Australian animals
    • birds
    • reptiles
    • fish
  • Develop skills in caring for animals prior to, during or after treatment.
    • planning a recovery
    • animal nursing

What You Will Do

  • Contact several bodies/organisations that are concerned with animal welfare, and obtain any literature or other information which you can, regarding issues such as the following:
  • Find out what restrictions placed by local councils upon the keeping of pets.
  • Find out what the legal requirements placed upon farmers or pet owners, with respect to animal welfare
  • Find two different types of domestic animals which you can observe (ie. different species).
  • Observe each on two different occasions, for at least 15 minutes each time.
  • Make notes of their behaviour.
  • Note any similarities between behaviour on the different occasions, and between the different types of animals.
  • Describe methods used for controlling/restraining animals during an examination
  • List as many things as you can that might cause an animals temperature too high
  • Contact a state government veterinary/agriculture department, and find out anything you can about health risks to humans from domestic & farm animal diseases in your country.
  • Try to determine what animals are the biggest threat; what diseases are a more serious threat, and what controls are in place to minimise such problems.
  • List any animal diseases which may be also contracted by man, which you are aware of.
  • Research exotic diseases in your country or region and take notes
  • Design a standard "Patient record" card/form for use by a general practice veterinarian.

Learn to Care for the Health and Well being of all Animals

Animal health care is an important industry; employing far more than just veterinarians.This course provides a fundamental understanding of how to care for the health of animals, on the farm, but also pests and wildlife in any situation. The knowledge and skill that you develop throughout this course can help you in any situation where you need to care for animals, from the role of a pet owner to farmer, zookeeper, veterinary assistant or animal refuge worker.


Sometimes Quarantine is Essential for the Greater Good

One of the greatest risks to animal health is to introduce a disease which the local population of animals is not adapted to cope with. Quarantine measures are common practice in many places, designed to control that risk; and to contain any potential spread of disease.

Inspection and quarantine of animals and plants is used to prevent the occurrence and trans-national spread of animal diseases in accordance with laws of the particular regions, states or countries, using enforcement measures together with scientific and technical methods. 

The purposes and tasks of inspection and quarantine of entry and exit animals and plants are:

  • To protect the production safety of agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries
  • To promote the development of economy and trade
  •  To ensure people’s health. 

Quarantine regulations vary markedly from region to region and country to country, and change over time. Regulations are frequently species specific, and vary depending on the intended purpose of the imported or exported animals.

Movement of animals within countries may also be subject to certain restrictions, on either a temporary or permanent basis
Importing animals
Prior to an animal being imported, the owner of the animal must generally obtain a permit to import from their country’s Quarantine service. Some of the many conditions required to obtain this permit include all animals to be:

  • Checked and listed by an official or government appointed veterinarian
  • Samples must be listed by a Government laboratory
  • In the case of cats and dogs they may be required to be identified by a microchip
  • Many species must be treated for internal and external parasites.

There are strict regulations regarding the importation of animals into Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and many other countries. 

These regulations vary depending on the country of origin. The main factors causing this variation are governed by the presence or absence of certain diseases in the country of origin (eg rabies in cats and dogs; foot and mouth disease in cloven-hoofed animals; African Horse Sickness Newcastle Disease). Note that rabies affects all warm blooded animals including humans, and is of the biggest concern.

The most common requirement of the European countries is that a pet health certificate be obtained within 10 days of travel and entrance to a specific country.  Most European countries do not recognize the three-year rabies vaccination.  All vaccinations, including the rabies shot, must be provided annually. 


When importing into Australia all animals from approved countries are required to be quarantined on arrival. Those from New Zealand and Norfolk Island are exempt from this requirement. It is important to remember that the disease status of all species is constantly changing, eg at the time of writing, live pigs are a prohibited import and the importation of live cattle into Australia has been suspended.

This is a method of confining an infected animal away from other animals which it might infect, until the infection has been treated/destroyed/cured.

A limited period of quarantine can be a good practice to carry out with new animals when they come onto a property, so any disease they are carrying will not spread.

Quarantine can be carried out by placing animals in a paddock or pen well away from other animals.

One person should care for the quarantined animal(s) to cut down the chance of the disease spreading. Ideally they should not handle other animals during this period, and should wear special overalls and boots which can be thoroughly disinfected (or burnt) when the animal(s) come out of quarantine. If the person cannot be spared, they should follow simple rules to cut down the chance of infecting other stock. 

The livestock farmer, veterinarian or animal attendant must take care to wash their hands thoroughly after they have been with the quarantined animals. They should put on a special pair of overalls and boots when dealing with the quarantined animals, and change into other clothes when they returns to the other animals. They should always feed the animals in quarantine after other stock, so that any infection on a farm workers clothes and boots are not transferred from the quarantine area.

In the case of outbreaks of Foot and Mouth or Anthrax, the area containing the infected animals is designated "in quarantine", and no animals can be moved out of the area. This helps to contain the disease and stops it spreading to "clean" areas.


Learning about Animal Health is More than just knowing the illnesses

Good animal health care is often more about prevention than cure. If you understand the potential health issues, you can do things to minimize the chances of any problem ever developing. This course helps you to fully understand and appreciate that fact; and develops a capacity to better manage the prevention of health problems, as well as an understanding of what to do if a problem does occur.


Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceVeterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
Cheryl McLardySports Horse Stud Groom, Stable Manager, Yard Manager, Equine industrial Training Manager, FE Distance Learning Manager. Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture and equine industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Cheryl has a B.Sc.(Hons), HND Horse Mgt, C&G Teaching Cert.

Check out our eBooks

Animal PsychologyComparative Animal Psychology. This is an excellent reference for anyone interested in understanding animals better; students, animal owners and anyone who works with animals.
Animal HealthA book for anyone interested in animal health, from pet owners to farmers. Contents cover understanding health issues, disease and injury prevention, inspecting animals, differential diagnosis and common illnesses. Animals can suffer from injury, poisoning, hereditary conditions, nutritional problems and viral, bacterial and fungal infections. 77 pages.
Caring for DogsThis book is jam packed full of practical advice and up to the minute information every dog owner needs! You will explore fundamentals of nutrition and health; parasites and illness; breeds and reproduction; training and behaviour management! Understand how your dog thinks and what your dog wants you to know. Try techniques to overcome behaviour problems! This is a book for dog owners, students and anyone interested in working with dogs. 79 pages
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!