First cycle
degree courses
Second cycle
degree courses
Single cycle
degree courses
School of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine
Course unit
AVP7079897, A.A. 2018/19

Information concerning the students who enrolled in A.Y. 2017/18

Information on the course unit
Degree course 5 years single cycle degree in
MV0991, Degree course structure A.Y. 2017/18, A.Y. 2018/19
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Number of ECTS credits allocated 12.0
Type of assessment Mark
Course unit English denomination VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY 1 AND ETHOLOGY
Department of reference Department of Animal Medicine, Production and Health
E-Learning website
Mandatory attendance
Language of instruction Italian
Single Course unit The Course unit CANNOT be attended under the option Single Course unit attendance
Optional Course unit The Course unit is available ONLY for students enrolled in VETERINARY MEDICINE (Ord. 2017)

Teacher in charge LIETA MARINELLI VET/02
Other lecturers PAOLO MONGILLO VET/02

ECTS: details
Type Scientific-Disciplinary Sector Credits allocated
Basic courses VET/02 Veterinary Physiology 12.0

Course unit organization
Period First semester
Year 2nd Year
Teaching method frontal

Type of hours Credits Teaching
Hours of
Individual study
Practice 4.0 40 60.0 2
Lecture 8.0 80 120.0 No turn

Start of activities 01/10/2018
End of activities 18/01/2019
Show course schedule 2019/20 Reg.2017 course timetable

Examination board
Board From To Members of the board
2 Commissione a.a. 2018/19 01/12/2018 30/11/2019 MARINELLI LIETA (Presidente)
MONGILLO PAOLO (Membro Effettivo)
1 Commissione a.a. 2017/18 01/12/2017 30/11/2018 MARINELLI LIETA (Presidente)
MONGILLO PAOLO (Membro Effettivo)

Prerequisites: Students are required to have solid knowledge of microscopic and macroscopic anatomy of domestic animals, biochemistry and priciple of medical physic.

Required foundation courses: Biochemistry, Veterinary Anathomy I, Veterinary Anathomy II
Target skills and knowledge: To understand the physiological significance of cells, organs and systems in maintaining homeostasis of the mammalian organism. To understand the function, ontogenesis and mechanism underlying the behaviour expressed by species of veterinary interest. To understand the neuro-physiological basis of animal behavior and the normal behavior of domestic animals. To develop critical thinking, problem solving and scientific skills in preparation for a career in veterinary medicine.
To acquire knowledge about the behavioural needs of animals and to develop skills for evaluating and granting the satisfaction of animal behavioral needs, through actions directed at the animal or at the animal caretakers.
Examination methods: The student may choose between oral or written test.
Assessment criteria: The examination will cover both practical and theoretical learning objectives. Student is expected to gain experience in physiological and behavioral data analysis and to critically discuss principles presented in lecture sessions.
Evaluation criteria include degree of knowledge of acquired information, understanding of the relationship/integration between different body systems, ability to explain the mechanisms underlying common situations related to adaptation to environment, use of appropriate technical language.
Course unit contents: Frontal lectures

The functional significance of the plasma membrane. The Body Fluid Compartments and the blood. Plasma composition and properties. Functions and life span of blood cells. AB0 system of blood groups and blood groups in domestic animals.

Physiology of excitable tissues. Determination of resting membrane potential. Graded potentials and action potentials. Propagation of action potentials. Synapses and neuronal integration. Possible actions of drugs and toxins on synaptic mechanisms.

Structure of skeletal muscle. Molecular basis of skeletal muscle contraction. Skeletal muscle mechanics: the viscous-elastic model. Isotonic and isometric contractions. Simple twitch, twitch summation, tetanus. Length-tension relationship. Skeletal muscle metabolism and fibre types. Multi-unit versus single-unit smooth muscle. Smooth muscle mechanics. Cardiac muscle features in comparison to skeletal and smooth muscles.

The Nervous System. The components of the reflex arc. Receptors: types, stimulus conversion, sensitivity, adaptation and acuity. The muscle spindle function. Function of the spinal cord and the spinal reflexes. Somatosensory pathways and somatotopic maps. Pain perception. Brain stem functions. Reticular formation. Somatic nervous system: motoneurons and muscle tone. Special senses: vision, taste, smell, hearing and vestibular sense. Role of the cerebellum and signal processing in the cortex. Processing of sensory input in the thalamus. Major functions of selected areas of the cerebral cortex. The autonomic nervous system.

The Digestive System. Prehension and mastication in mono-gastric species and herbivores. Function of saliva and control of salivary secretion. Swallowing reflex. Gastric motility and digestion in monogastric species. Development of the Forestomach. Esophageal groove reflex. Forestomach: digestion, adsorption and forestomach motility. Metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the forestomach. Function of pancreas and control pancreatic secretion. The liver: bile composition and digestive function. Intestinal motility and secretion. Digestion and absorption in small intestine. Large intestine function and colon absorption. Overview of the gastointestinal hormones.

General ethology. Conceptual aspects in the study of animal behaviour. Evolution of behaviour and its adaptive significance. Domestication. Genetic basis of behaviour. Mechanisms of control and regulation of behaviour. Emotion and motivation. Learning processes: non associative, associative, social, and complex learning. Principles of animal communication. Social behaviour and social organization of animals of veterinary relevance.

Special ethology

Dog, cat, horse: behavioural repertoire. Behavioural development, needs and management of puppies, kittens, foals. Behavioural needs and management of dogs/cats/horses in clinical, domestic and public contexts and in shelters. Characteristics and prevention of behavioural problems.
Cattle, small ruminants, pigs, rabbits, poultry and laboratory animals: behavioural repertoire and behavioural needs.

Lab sessions and practicals:

Physiological and behavioral measurements; determination of body fluid compartments; osmolarity and equivalence determinations; RBC and WBC count; Differential WBC count. Properties of Skeletal Muscle, Smooth Muscle and Cardiac Muscle. Virtual lab to understand compound action potential of nerves. Special senses sensitivity and acuity. Reflexes: the pupillary light reflex and simple spinal cord reflexes. Feeding behavior and gastrointestinal motility: direct observation. Animal training basics. Classification of behavioural units and identification of normal/abnormal behaviors.
Planned learning activities and teaching methods: The course includes 80 hours of lectures and 40 hour of lab sessions to gain experience in critical analysis of physiological and behavioural data and to reinforce physiological and ethological principles discussed in lecture sessions. Lab sessions and practical activities are based on participative interaction, with group discussion and evaluation reports.
Additional notes about suggested reading: Additional learning materials, detailed learning objectives and weekly program are available on Moodle (

The professor will be available in her office for consultations any time during weekly days. A prior appointment needs to be arrange by email.

Optional readings:

Cunningham J.G., Manuale di fisiologia veterinaria. Roma: Antonio Delfino Editore. 3° Edizione
Swenson M.J., Reece W.O., Dukes’ Fisiologia degli animali domestici. Napoli: Idelson-Gnocchi.
Albright J., Arawe, C. The behaviour of cattle. CAB International, Oxon, UK.
Waring G.H. Horse Behavior. Second edition. Noyes Publications, Norwich, USA.
Beaver B. Canine Behaviour: Insight and Answers, 2nd Ed., Saunders
Beaver B. Feline Behaviour: a guide for veterinarians, 2nd Ed., Saunders
Textbooks (and optional supplementary readings)
  • Sjaastad, Oystein V.; Sand, Olav; Tamanini, Carlo, Fisiologia degli animali domesticiØ. V. Sjaastad, O. Sand, K. Hoveedizione italiana a cura di Carlo Tamanini. Milano: CEA, 2013.
  • Grasselli, Francesca; Zannetti, Giuseppe; Bracchi, Piergiovanni; Jensen, Per, Etologia degli animali domesticia cura di: Per Jensenedizione italiana a cura di: Piergiovanni Bracchi, Francesca Grasselli, Giuseppe Zannetti. Milano [etc.]: McGraw Hill, 2011, --.