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There are four general categories of fear-related behaviors/ phobias in dogs and cats [2]

  1. Fear of new places or situations 

  2. Fear of unfamiliar people 

  3. Fear of unfamiliar dogs/cats 

  4. Noise phobias 


Fear of a clinic visit is very real and terrifying for many pets because the visit induces all four categories of phobias [2] at one go and, due to repeated classical conditioning / associative learning [1] with feelings of illnesses or confinement, becomes a spine chilling apprehension.


This often leads to more dread and distress during subsequent visits, making a physical assessment,  sample collection and treatment much harder for everyone involved.

Being aware of the existing fears experienced by your pets during a clinic visit is not adequate.


Owners must take steps to help address these negative emotions in their pets and eliminate or minimize it so that the visits are kept fruitful, or at least bearable.

  • Cowering: head and body low, body leaning backward


  • Muscle tense


  • Trembling


  • Head down, ears back or out to the sides and brows furrowed


  • Panting, yawning, licking lips


  • Salivation, urinating, defecating


  • Looks sleepy or move in slow motion

  • Performs commanded behaviours in a distracted manner

  • Sweaty paws

  • Shedding fur

  • Hyper-vigilant - scanning for potential danger

  • Shaking as if drying off from a bath

  • Displacement behaviors such as itching when not pruritic, sniffing the ground when there is no scent, looking distracted.

Light of Life Vet Cat Patient: "What?"


List adapted from Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behaviour Modification of Dogs & Cats. Techniques for Developing Patients who Love their Visits.


Carrier Training [1]


  • Choose a hard case carrier for the comfort and safety of the pets during travelling and when around other bigger and unknown pets.


  • Choose a material that can be washed and dried easily.


  • Add in a soft, washable mat or one of your old garments to increase the comfort and familiarity level.


  • Never permanently seal the top and bottom of your carrier together because some pets prefer to be left in the carrier during examination and the removal of the carrier top is more acceptable than being forcefully pulled or poured out of the carrier.

​All pets should be trained to enjoy being in a pet carrier so they feel comfortable traveling, being moved from place to place and will treat it as their personal space. The conditioning process can takes less than a week if owners are able to train them consistently [1]. 

Light of Life Vet Ragdoll Kittens

Classic Conditioning

  • Remove the door and leave the carrier where your pet can always see, smell, and touch.


  • Start feeding your pet as near to the carrier as possible. Do this for at least 2 days and for every meal.


  • When your pet is comfortable, move the bowl of food just inside the carrier so that your pet has to stick his/her head into the carrier only. Continue until your pet does not back out of the carrier to check the outside surroundings.

Light of Life Vet: Kitten conditioned to eat in the carrier.
  • Move the bowl of food further into the carrier gradually. Continue with this stage of training until your pet is comfortably eating the entire meal within the carrier.


  • Reward your pet with several pieces of treats/ kibbles or homemade snacks in a roll to encourage him/her to stay in the carrier for a short while after every meal, instead of allowing him/her to dart out of the carrier immediately. Make sure that your pet is kept entirely in the carrier while eating the extra treats/ extra food.

Above: Placing food in the carrier so that your cat has to be partially in the carrier to eat.

Light of Life Vet - Cat conditioned to be not afraid of the carrier
  • The interval between each piece of treats/ extra food should be increased gradually so that your pet is waiting in the carrier for about 5 seconds per treat/ extra food.


  • Hide pieces of toys or treats within the carrier and under the mat throughout the day so that your pet gets even more familiar with the carrier and associates it with good food and pleasant emotions.


  • Continue to leave the carrier where your pet can see, smell, and touch. 


  • You have successfully carrier-trained your pet when you see him/her sleeping or resting randomly in the carrier without any food or toys as a motivator.

Above: Let the carrier become a part of your pet's furniture.

Light of Life Vet: Kitten sleeping in the carrier voluntarily.
Light of Life Vet: Kittens enjoying being around a carrier.

Above: Condition your cat to be active around and near the carrier.

Above: Success! Cat sleeps in the open carrier lined with owner's old garments, voluntarily.

This exercise will help you build trust and a strong bond with your pet(s).

Remember never to rush the process of conditioning your pet positively because every pet is an individual with a different perception of life, emotional needs and acclimatization pace [1,4].

Car Ride Training

Dog enjoying a car ride

All pets should be restrained or contained in a hard-cased carrier while travelling in a car to prevent anxiety, soiling accidents and danger to the driver and other passengers [1]. 

Some pets develop vomiting due to anxiety, while others have motion sickness due to unstable driving, thus it is important that they are not fed food or water before the drive.

Essential First

  • Ensure that your pet is given a chance to explore inside and outside (for a pet dog) of your car before his/her first official ride.


  • Appoint a steady driver and use a short, scenic or leisure route to travel to a quiet park or area for the first drive.


  • You may distract your pet with small amount of treats during and after the ride.


  • Repeat this weekly or twice a week.


  • Your pet will appear more relax, eat the treats, pant and vocalize lesser as he/she becomes more comfortable with the car ride training.


  • Increase the travel distance slowly.


  • Reduce the treats eventually to one or two during and immediately after the car ride.


  • Then drive the full journey to the clinic area/ premise (not for consultation). 


  • Once your pet is comfortable with the journey to the clinic, book in an appointment to see the vet.

car ride 2

This exercise will help you build trust and a strong bond with your pet(s).

Remember never to rush the process of conditioning your pet positively because every pet is an individual with different perception of life, emotional needs and acclimatization pace [1,4].

FAM (Food as Motivators) [1,4]

Dog treats

In general, dogs will be more motivated by food or treats than cats, especially in a car or during a clinic visit.

  • Withhold the previous meal before the clinic visit.


  • Bring along a meal-worth of your pet's favourite treats (by withholding a meal before a clinic visit, your pet can be rewarded with slightly more treats during the visit, making the trip extra special and worthwhile, without causing nutritional issues).


  • Do not feed excessive treats or food during the car ride to the clinic - only offer a few pieces of treats.


  • Offer a few pieces of treats during the waiting period.


  • When the consultation starts, allow the vet to decide when to feed the treats as a reward after each assessment process / procedure so that your pet will not be distracted from the vet's requests.

cat treat

The following tips may encourage your pet to become more responsive to the treats and allow the treats to act as a positive distraction during more emotionally demanding situations:

Adjunctive Therapy [2]

Anti-Anxiety Adjunct Aerosol

Light of Life Vet : Feliway


Feliway Spray (Synthetic Feline Pheromones)

Light of Life Vet: Adaptil


Adaptil Spray (Dog Appeasing Pheromones)

Feliway spray is a synthetic feline facial pheromone analogue.


It is a man-made substance that resembles what your cat can deposit when he or she rubs his or her cheek on your leg or furniture.


The scent tells the cat he or she is in a safe place as the substance is a signal that cats use to mark objects in their "safe areas".

Feliway can be used to make a new place or situation "feel" more familiar and safe for some cats.


Based on our clinic observation, some impulsively aggressive cats do not respond well to the substance and can become more combative after exposure.

Please do not spray pheromones directly at the cats' faces. It can trigger an asthma attack in sensitive individuals or injure their corneas.

Adaptil is a synthetic congener of natural dog-appeasing pheromone.

It mimics the natural form of dog-appeasing pheromone that is secreted from the sebaceous glands between the mammary chains of lactating bitches directly after parturition.


The pheromone is reported to be detected by Jacobson’s organ or the vomeronasal organ (VNO) and to trigger calming effects in both young and adult dogs under a wide variety of stressful situations.

It can be used as an adjunctive treatment to mitigate emotionally challenging conditions such as separation-related behavior problems, phobias, and hyper-attachment.

Please do not spray pheromones directly at the dogs' faces. It can trigger an asthma attack in sensitive individuals or injure their corneas.

Anti-Anxiety Oral Medicine

Choices of medications to be given the day before and two hours before the day of the exam:


  • Lorazepam - cats and dogs

  • Gabapentin - cats and dogs

  • Trazadone - cats and dogs

  • Chlorpheniramine  - cats

All medicating protocols should be dispensed and guided by your appointed veterinarian. 

Creating a small amount of sedation for the fearful cats and dogs is always preferable to causing permanent phobia and emotional damage, but the dose rendered should produce relief of fear and anxiety only, while maintaining all normal behaviors like walking, eating and drinking.

Owner-custodian should be aware that the dog or cat given oral medication to reduce extreme fear at or after a veterinary visit, tends to sleep more deeply once home for the next 24- 48 hours.

Ten Things Owners Must Never Do During a Stressful Event [4]

  • Pull your pet out of the carrier or towards any direction forcefully because you are in a hurry to run to your next errand.


  • Yell your pet's name repeatedly at your pet when they are already anxious and frightened.


  • Raise your voice in the consult room when the veterinary staff is communicating with your pet through subtle body language and gestures.


  • Distract your pet by feeding your pet large amount of treats at the wrong time.


  • Be more anxious than your pet.


  • Be inconsistent with your instruction to your pet [4,5].


  • Fail to inform the veterinary staff that the pet is aggressive, will bite, scratch, run for the door and do other things that threatens the safety of everyone present.


  • Refuse to let the veterinary staff conduct a series of aggression threshold tests in order to determine a safe handling method [5].


  • Not allowing the veterinary staff to handle your pet alone.


  • Hit your pet.

highfive with cat

Ensure that you gain your pet's trust and form a stable, long-lasting partnership by reassurance and positive training.



Appearing consistently relaxed and composed during any clinic visit is very important to your pet(s) as they can interpret subtle body language exhibited by you [4], which can set the tone for them and encourage them to loosen up before meeting unfamiliar people, situations and procedures.


If you exhibit anxiety, distress and discomfort, your pet(s) will sense your uncertainty and that can trigger their own anxiety despite all your previous training [4].


Below is a summary of our standard, everyday protocol to get you more acquainted with our practice's work flow.


Consultation by Appointment

We only consult by appointment to ensure that each medical case gets adequate time for an appropriate and thorough assessment.


This enables our veterinary staff to provide a specific recommendation, arrange appropriate consultation duration and allow special preparation for your pet(s).

Examples of recommendation and preparation:


  • When to shower your pet before vaccination.


  • To cover the carrier with a big towel to reduce stress, especially for anxious cats and parrots.


  • To come in for earlier consultation due to the severity of your pet's medical condition.


  • To skip a meal before consultation for proper desensitization and counter-conditioning by our staff.


  • Reserve a longer consultation time for your pet's complicated condition.

  • To proceed to an emergency centre immediately.

Priority will be given to cases deemed to be an emergency or critical by our trained veterinary personnel.


However, we are not a 24-hour facility that can provide overnight intensive care. 

Thus, cases will be stabilized and referred to the client-specified 24-hour facility.

Light of Life Vet: To make appointments for consultation, call 62433282

Weigh - In

Your pet's weight will be taken on the weighing scale at the reception area or privately in a consultation room when you first arrive.

Light of Life Vet: Weighing scale 2
Light of Life Vet : Weighing scale 1

Your pet's weight has to be taken in order for our veterinary staff to assess his/her overall health, calculate the dosage of medication and track changes to his/her body condition.

Above: Weighing scale at reception area.

Above: Weighing scale in the consult rooms.


If you do not wish that we obtain previous medical records of your pet(s) from your previous veterinary clinic(s), please inform us at the point of your registration or when you call to make your appointment.


Otherwise, we will proceed to obtain your pet's previous medical for documentation and ensure appropriate treatment with proper continuity.

You will need to complete a registration form with:


  • Your pet's details - Name, Gender, Age, Microchip number, Sterilization status, Licence number (if applicable)


  • Your details (as reflected in your NRIC as recommended by Animal Veterinary Services Singapore)


  • Reason(s) for visit - including duration of problem, symptoms observed.


You will need to provide us with the following (if applicable):

  • Vaccination card


  • Previous clinical/ medical records**

The Wait

The assessment of your pet's condition actually occurs when you and your pet first enter the clinic premise. 


Our trained veterinary personnel will visually observe and assess your pet's behaviour, mentation and vocalisation to determine if your pet is stable, anxious or require immediate attention.

We will enter all the information provided by you into our computer system before your consultation.


For some cases, we will need to collect biological samples from your pet before the start of consultation. For example, we will arrange some stool sample to be collected if your pet has diarrhea; urine sample if your pet has bloody urine.


For other cases, a simple triage may be done by our veterinary personnel to prioritize your pet's condition and to estimate your waiting time. Triage means that the heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature of your pet(s) will be recorded [3].

All excitable dogs will be segregated from other patients, especially cats and birds, either at the outdoor waiting area or in a separate room to prevent dog to dog or inter-species aggression, fear or stress induced collapses.


We recommend that all highly sensitive pets be segregated in our quiet area until the veterinarian is available to assess them.


Priority will be given to cases deemed to be an emergency or critical by our trained veterinary personnel.


However, we are not a 24 hour facility that can provide overnight intensive care. 

Thus, cases will be stabilized and referred to the client-specified 24 hour facility.

We reserve the right to refer cases to other clinics, hospitals and facilities immediately if we deem medically appropriate and necessary.



Dog with treats.

Photo by Freepik

We are unable to prevent, control or predict every type of medical case that may require our immediate attention. 


This means that your appointment can be delayed significantly if an emergency arises.


If you feel that you are facing a pet emergency, please highlight your situation to our veterinary personnel upon arrival or over the phone so that a triage can be performed [3].

These emergency cases will be given priority, stabilized and referred to the client-specified 24 hour facility.


We reserve the right to refer cases to other clinics, hospitals and facilities immediately if we deem medically appropriate and necessary.


We seek your understanding and support.


1. Yin, S. (2009). Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behaviour Modification of Dogs & Cats. Techniques for Developing Patients who Love their Visits. USA: Cattledog

2. Case, L.P. (2010). Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends. USA: Delmar

3. Drobatz,K.J., Hopper,H., Rozanski,E., Silverstein,D.C. (2019). Textbook of Small Animal Emergency Medicine, Vol 1. USA: Wiley-Blackwell 


4. Miller,P. (2008). The Power of Positive Dog Training, 2nd Ed. US: Wiley


5. Sternberg,S. (2017). Assessing Aggression Threshold in Dogs using the Assess-A-Pet Protocol to Better Understand Aggression. USA: Dogwise


Blk 703 Bedok Reservoir Road 

#01-3508 Singapore 470703



Tel: 6243 3282 

(By Appointment Only)





5 pm to 10 pm


2 pm to 4 pm, 5 pm to 10 pm



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