Animals obtain nutrients from feed to maintain their body functions. Proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates in feed must be broken down through physical and chemical means into simple units. The simple units are transported across the intestinal epithelium to provide energy and building blocks for the body and its secretions. The process of breaking down complex nutrients into more basic units is called digestion. The process of transporting the basic units, minerals, vitamins, and water across the intestinal epithelium is called absorption. The two processes occur within the digestive tract. On the basis of eating habits, animals are classified as carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores. Carnivores, such as the dog and cat, are flesh-eating animals, and herbivores, like cattle and the horse, are plant-eating animals. Omnivores, such as the pig, feed on both flesh and plants.
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