I’m always amazed at advertising for pet foods.

The current trend is towards “natural,” “organic” and other such words. But what does this really mean and what is the best food for your pets; or yourself, for that matter? Remember, the best advertisement isn’t necessarily the best food.

“Organic” usually means there aren’t any additives in the food itself. But many foods are pretty poisonous on their own. Foxglove is a natural product and can be grown organically. It’s also deadly.

Some owners just don’t trust the companies that spend millions of dollars every year to define the best diet for your pet; they’d rather do it themselves. I’ve had a couple of bad cars, but I wouldn’t try to build one myself thinking I could do a better job.

Only five pet food companies in the world do their own research and design their diets accordingly. All others simply try to take this information and come up with something close. Most don’t do too much research in how it works either, but they still slap the words “natural” and “organic” on their promotions. I don’t know of any dogs that eat only chicken. Or at least any that got away with it.

Studies have shown animal hair and, most troubling, drugs that are used to euthanize dogs and cats, can sometimes be found in the cheaper foods. One food type produced dogs that were clinically emaciated. Don’t worry; it’s not available in the Yukon anymore.

There’s a simple way to get an idea of how good a pet food is: try a cheap food, collect the droppings and put them back in the bag. A good food will fill very little of the bag. This means the dog used the food, which also means you have to feed it less. It also means that cheaper food might end up being more expensive in the long run.

Even the best of foods will occasionally not set well with an individual pet. What I consider one of the best foods on the market produced horrible skin problems and weight loss in my own dog.

Food allergies in dogs and cats are a lot more common than you would think. It’s possible to test for food allergies. You can ship your pet to a certified dermatologist, but there is also a blood test that will give you some very good ideas.

I’ve used this type of testing quite a bit over the years and it works very well. My own dog held the record for the most allergies in a single animal, 27. She was allergic to the peanut butter we put in her toys, the carrots we used as treats and even the banana we shared most mornings.

My record for a single allergen was a really nice old dog that had had obvious allergic problems for years. The owners, who were a great couple, had tried diet changes, environmental changes and every trick in the book to try to figure out the problem. Nothing worked. I finally convinced them to do a blood test for allergens. And we got a single hit: the dog was allergic to humans.

Try explaining that one to the nice people.