Virtual Animal Anatomy Programs - User Guide

Thank you for supporting the development of Colorado State University’s Virtual Animal Anatomy (VAA) programs. This user guide provides an overview of the tools and features found within the VAA program suite. Most of the screenshots featured in this guide come from Virtual Canine Anatomy 3.0 (VCA3). However, the instructions and feature descriptions detailed herein are applicable to the entire suite of Veterinary Education Tools’ Virtual Animal Anatomy programs including Virtual Equine Anatomy (VEA), Virtual Feline Anatomy (VFA), and Virtual Bovine Anatomy (VBA). While each program features different species and varying levels of anatomical completeness, their navigation tools, and specimen viewing options are analogous.

Start the Program

Exe Version (Windows): If you are using Windows, you have two ways to run the program. The first option is to double click on “VCA.exe” (Fig. 1a). If you get a security notice as shown in Figure 1b, click “More info” and “Run anyway” to open the program. Skip to the Splash Screen step below.

Figure 1a, VCA3 file structure, and 1b, security notice

Browser Version (Windows and Mac): The second option to run the program is through your browser. Double click on “start.html” (Fig. 1a). This will open the program in your default browser. We recommend that you use Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer.

System Requirements

To use any of the Virtual Animal Anatomy programs (i.e. VCA3, VEA, VFA, or VBA), you will need to have Adobe® Flash® Player 11.2 or higher installed on your browser. You will be prompted to install Adobe® Flash® Player if it is not already installed. Click on the Get Adobe® Flash® Player icon and install Flash if necessary (Fig. 2).

Figure 2, Flash Player installation prompt

Security Settings

You will need to change the Flash security settings for the program to run properly in a browser. Click on the link below and choose the video from the playlist that matches your browser and system for instructions on how to do so.

YouTube Instructions Playlist

Splash Screen

After changing the security settings, click the “Begin Program” button to open the main map of your Virtual Animal Anatomy program (Fig.3). Program development credits are displayed at the bottom of the splash screen.

Figure 3, VCA3 splash screen

Main Map

A program’s Main Map (Fig. 4) provides a regional list of anatomical features described in the Virtual Animal Anatomy program. From the Main Map, users may choose to study from categorized anatomical regions by selecting their respective thumbnail images. A search bar (Fig. 5) located in the upper right corner allows for rapid access to the location of an anatomical structure anywhere it is listed in the program. The search bar function is always accessible during use of a Virtual Animal Anatomy program. Searchable terms include names of anatomical structures, and keywords found within the structure descriptions.

Figure 4, VCA3 main map Figure 5, search bar

Anatomical Region Maps

Selection of an anatomical region thumbnail image in the Main Map sends the user to a more localized anatomical region map (Fig. 6 - VCA3 “Thorax Map” is shown below). Depending on the Virtual Animal Anatomy program, a variety of detailed categories can be selected within the regional topic, including directional terms, osteology, dissection, radiology, surface anatomy, and quizzes. When a study category thumbnail image is selected, users are directed to a structure selection window (Fig. 7) wherein anatomical structures can be studied in-depth from various perspectives.

Figure 6, VCA3 thorax map Figure 7, structure selection window

Structure Selection Window – Navigation Bar

The structure selection windows’ navigation upper bar (Fig. 8) includes the following navigation tabs:

Main Map: This tab will take you back to the Main Map for the program so that you can access any anatomical region in the program.

Regional Map: In Figure 8, the region selected is the Thorax and the tab is therefore the “Thorax Map”. Selecting this tab will take you back to the screen image displayed in Figure 6.

Jump to Page: This tab allows quick navigation to any layer of the currently viewed dissection / image sequence.

Figure 8, jump to page menu

Options: Selecting the Options tab allows you to view common English names for structures when available. In general, the Virtual Animal Anatomy programs follow the naming criteria outlined in the Nomina anatomica veterinaria, Sixth edition – 2017.

Navigation arrows: Left and right navigation arrows located immediately below the Main Map tab allow for navigation between sequential structure and window selections made during the current session’s viewing history; similar in function to an internet search bar’s navigation arrows.

Drop down history list: A downward pointing arrow button to the right of the Navigation arrows allow the user to navigate directly to any point of the current session’s viewing history timeline.

Structure Selection Window - Structure Links and Overlays

Selecting a blue structure link within the structure selection window (Figs. 7 and 9) results in the structure’s visible anatomical boundaries by generating a highlighted overlay of that structure within the featured specimen image. Users can also click directly on the main specimen image to view the structure overlays. The overlay color indicates a structure’s tissue type (Table 1). A double overlay, consisting of two contrasting colors, can be visualized when a specific feature of a structure is selected (e.g. the temporal process of the greater zygomatic bone as shown in Fig. 10).

Figure 9, structure selection list, and figure 10, double overlay example Table 1, colors associated with tissue types

Structure Selection Window – Anatomical Description Textbox

Upon selection of a blue structure link or an overlay, the anatomical description (Fig. 11) for that structure is displayed within the grey text box at the bottom of the structure selection window. Text in the grey box displayed in blue is a structure hyperlinked to its description elsewhere in the program. By clicking on the audio icon adjacent to the anatomical term, the user can listen to pronunciation audio files. Content, including text and audio content, is the most complete for VCA3, but it is continually being developed for all Virtual Animal Anatomy programs.

Figure 11, anatomical description of a structure

Structure Selection Window – Specimen Viewing Options

To access sequential dissection layers for the currently viewed specimen, use the “Prev” and “Next” dissection layer navigation buttons located at the bottom left hand side of the main specimen image (Fig. 12). The current dissection layer number is shown in a small yellow box to the right of these buttons.

Figure 12, navigation buttons

To access different anatomical viewpoints of the specimen (i.e. cranial view, caudal view, dorsal view, ventral view, etc.), click on the Anatomical View Buttons (Fig. 12) located at the bottom of the main specimen image. The currently displayed anatomical view is shown in red italicized text within the main specimen image. When available, alternate dissections, views, and miscellaneous overlays can also be accessed using buttons located at the bottom of the main specimen image. The “Rotate” button (Fig. 12, Fig. 13) opens a separate window in which users can virtually rotate the specimen to view it from all angles by clicking and dragging on the image. To zoom in on the rotatable specimen, click on the “Zoom In” button, and hold the shift key to pan over the zoomed specimen. Return to full view using the “Zoom Out” button. The overlays are not available in the rotate function.

Figure 13, rotational window example from VEA

To zoom in on the main specimen image in the structure selection window, click and drag the zoom scroll bar (Fig. 14) located below the small thumbnail image on the left side of the screen. Zooming in produces a white boundary box representing the area now viewable in the main specimen image. Click and drag the white zoom box to view different portions of the main image. Selecting the “Focus” button zooms the main image to focus directly on the currently selected structure. The “Reset” button returns the main specimen image back to full view.

Figure 14, zoom window example from VEA

Structure Selection Window – Dissection Instructions

In VCA3, dissection instructions can be accessed via a “Dissection Instructions” blue link at the top of the structure selection list. Selecting the link generates structure overlays as well as step-by-step dissection instructions shown in the grey structure description textbox at the bottom of the screen (Fig. 15).

Dissection Instructions in VCA3


Quizzes for each anatomical region can be found within the anatomical region maps. All of the Virtual Animal Anatomy programs include point-and-click structure identification quizzes (Fig. 16). VCA3 also includes fill-in-the-blank structure labeling, and multiple choice structure description quizzes (Fig. 17). Users are always provided score results at the end of each quiz, allowing for periodic self-assessment.

Figure 16, structure ID quiz results in VBAFigure 17, quiz options in VCA3

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