Most small-animal X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanners are based on cone-beam geometry with a flat-panel detector orbiting in a circular trajectory. Image reconstruction in these systems is usually performed by approximate methods based on the algorithm proposed by Feldkamp et al. (FDK). Besides the implementation of the reconstruction algorithm itself, in order to design a real system it is necessary to take into account numerous issues so as to obtain the best quality images from the acquired data. This work presents a comprehensive, novel software architecture for small-animal CT scanners based on cone-beam geometry with circular scanning trajectory. The proposed architecture covers all the steps from the system calibration to the volume reconstruction and conversion into Hounsfield units. It includes an efficient implementation of an FDK-based reconstruction algorithm that takes advantage of system symmetries and allows for parallel reconstruction using a multiprocessor computer. Strategies for calibration and artifact correction are discussed to justify the strategies adopted. New procedures for multi-bed misalignment, beam-hardening, and Housfield units calibration are proposed. Experiments with phantoms and real data showed the suitability of the proposed software architecture for an X-ray small animal CT based on cone-beam geometry.