Dear Dr. Fox:

My 4-year-old Maltese, Brandee, just started having this weird type of seizure-like symptom. When the "attack" comes on, she comes close to me, looks up, and then her hind legs seem to go limp. Within 30 or 60 seconds, it's all over with. She then runs around and acts like nothing happened.

Any input or explanation as to what would cause this? I know a veterinary exam is in order, but I would love to hear your advice first.

G.J., Vienna

Your dog is having mild seizures. They could get worse -- more intense, going into what is called a "grand mal" seizure, and also more frequent. So a veterinary examination is definitely in order.

Before immediately having your dog put on anti-seizure medication (which the veterinarian may suggest), a steroidal anti-inflammatory drug may help, especially if the seizures began soon after your dog was vaccinated.

You should also rule out food allergy/ hypersensitivity. Wheat products and MSG (monosodium glutamate) present in many processed foods and food industry byproducts have been implicated in some instances of canine epilepsy. You may want to put your dog on a homemade balanced diet of rice and meat that your veterinarian can help you formulate. Or find recipes in Rudy Edalati's book, "Barker's Grub" (Harmony Books, 2001).

Dear Dr. Fox:

Ziggy was an abandoned cat that we've had now for almost a year. He's now about 2 years old -- a gentle, loving cat -- who seems content with us and our other cat. But he has one bad habit that I've been unable to break.

When I put food in his dish, Ziggy eats normally, but when he's finished, he kicks and pushes his dish with his paws, so that, most of the time, all the dry food goes all over the place! He'll even kick the water dish around. Then, usually about an hour or so later, he'll come back, take a little more food and push the dish around some more. It looks like he's trying to bury his food -- or something.

I tried attaching the bowl to the inside of a metal cookie tray with a piece of Velcro. When Ziggy found that the bowl wouldn't budge, he stuck his paws in the dish and tried to move the food out. He does stop these activities, when I say, "No, Ziggy!" but then he waits around till I'm gone and then returns to make sure his job is done.

What it comes down to is that I must be around to watch him. If I'm away, he'll mess up the food area. Do you think you can help me break this strange habit of Ziggy's?

N.R., Matlacha, Fla.

I have, over the years, received a number of letters from readers of my column who had the same problem you describe with their cats. What it comes down to is that your cat Ziggy is a "tidy" cat. He wants to cover up his food and water so that it stays fresh and also so that no one can snatch it. This is his self-preservation instinct from the wild that has gone a bit wacky in the domestic setting in which he lives, and so he ends up spilling his food all over rather than burying it.

Cats (and dogs, too) who have had a hard life, experiencing thirst and starvation, may become covetous of food and water later in life. Possibly Ziggy experienced such hardships before you adopted him, when he was a stray. One of my Indian dogs, who lived off the streets as a pup, has a real water fixation and relaxes best with a marrowbone to chew on.

I suggest that you purchase some no-tip-and-spill heavy-duty dog bowls for your Ziggy. These will better contain a small amount of food and water and prevent spillage over the floor when he makes his pawing motions of "burying" his food. Also, try covering the bowl with a towel -- that's one alternative cats seem to appreciate.

Dr. Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him, in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

(c)2002, United Feature Syndicate Inc.