Animal health includes all aspects necessary to ensure the well-being of animals, including disease prevention and treatment, veterinary medicine, nutrition, proper handling and care, and more. Animal health is closely related to the broader concept of animal welfare, which is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as “how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives.” These fields cover the health of both pets kept for companionship as well as livestock and other farm animals.
The study of animal health is important--and challenging--in part because animals are limited in their ability to care for themselves and cannot directly express their needs verbally. Traditionally, animal health professionals had to rely largely on expert knowledge of animal behavior to diagnose illnesses, injuries, or other health issues. However, the ability to gather and analyze much more in-depth data on the health of animal populations as well as individual animals has provided valuable new tools in bioinformatics.
Regardless of the types of animals in question or the methods of diagnosis used, animal health is a growing part of the healthcare marketplace. Caring for the health of livestock and farm animals is particularly important, as outbreaks of diseases can have significant impact on public health and safety as well as consumer food prices.
Just as animal health is a wide-ranging topic of study, there are a number of different career pathways available to people interested in this field. Perhaps the most familiar animal health professionals are veterinarians, who are equivalent to doctors in this field and are generally required to have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited university as well as state-issued licenses to practice.
The opportunities to work in animal health don’t stop there. Wildlife biologists and wildlife rehabilitators study the condition of animals in natural ecosystems, and help restore injured animals back to health before they are returned to the wild. Animal behaviorists and trainers are experts on understanding why animals act the way they do. And there are a growing number of jobs providing services to pet owners, including pet insurance agents, animal psychologists, and even animal massage therapists.
In other words, if you love animals, there are plenty of opportunities to work in animal health, regardless of your skill set.
Compared to on-campus alternatives, online learning options for animal health can offer advantages such as lower costs and greater flexibility in pursuing the exact same level of education.
As the world’s leading online learning platform, Coursera offers a wide range of animal health-related courses from top universities like Duke University, University of Florida, University of Edinburgh, and Penn State. A survey of the most popular courses on the platform demonstrates the breadth of animals you can learn about online. Courses on topics like veterinary medicine, animal behavior and welfare, animal psychology, and even The Truth About Cats and Dogs are available to match your interests and goals--whether it’s launching a career in animal health or just better understanding your own pets or farm animals.