Animal disease (current concepts)


This module is designed to bring you up to date with the latest information and concepts in five subject areas that form the basis of the study of animal disease, namely: pathology, immunology, parasitology, microbiology and epidemiology.

Topics covered

The module follows a structured path through the concepts of animal disease and consists of 15 units of study, all of which you should complete. They make up the following five modules.

Section 1 Veterinary Pathology

Disease causes the malfunction of an animal’s homeostatic mechanisms. This malfunction is demonstrated in the alteration of the physiology, and thus the cellular structure of the animal, which in turn leads to pathological changes that can be observed and recognized. The first two units of the course will consider the pathological changes that can occur in the body.

Section 2 Immunology

This module goes on to look at how the body defends itself against the agents that can cause disease, including both the specific and non-specific mechanisms of defence.

Section 3 Veterinary Parasitology

Parasites affect animals in different ways: some cause diseases while others affect production and productivity of farm animals. In this module you will learn about parasites that are of veterinary importance, their life cycles and how to control parasitic infections.

Section 4 Microbiology

In this module you will look at infectious agents that can cause disease and the relevant mechanisms involved in this process. You will also gain an understanding of how to isolate and identify micro-organisms in order to confirm clinical diagnosis.

Section 5 Veterinary Epidemiology

In the final module, you will consider the causation, frequency and distribution of disease in animal populations.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • describe pathological changes that occur at cellular, tissue and organ level during the disease process.
  • use the knowledge gained by studying pathology to make diagnostic decisions about diseases at ante- and post-mortem levels.
  • explain basic immunological mechanisms used by animals to combat diseases.
  • describe both specific and non-specific mechanisms of defence using relevant cell types, cytokines, complements and other molecules that are involved in these pathways.
  • describe how parasites affect animals and their health status.
  • explain the life cycles of important protozoan, arthropod and helminth parasites that cause diseases in domestic animals.
  • list and describe the major types of organisms that cause infectious diseases and the structures that are primarily responsible for pathogenetic and antigenic mechanisms.
  • understand how vaccination and treatment strategies are devised, based on knowledge about the organism.
  • outline methods of isolating, characterizing and identifying micro-organisms to facilitate clinical diagnosis.
  • apply relevant concepts of epidemiology that are essential in investigations of disease in animal populations.
  • describe study types and the validity of tests used in epidemiological investigations and explain how to interpret the findings of these studies.


Your work for this module will be assessed by means of a three-hour unseen written examination paper which will take the form of essay questions. In addition, you must submit at least one and up to three TMAs. The grade awarded will be based on the mark obtained in the written examination (80%) and on the mark for the compulsory TMA (20%).

Module information sheets

Download the full module information sheet from the RVC website.