It is difficult to find and feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet from commercial dog food brands in Vietnam. One reason is the lack of choice, as there are only eight nationally distributed dog food brands in Vietnam. Unfortunately, these brands lie within the economy-to-mid price range categories with only a few premium brands available (although more are moving into the market in Vietnam this year).

What sets apart a premium brand is the order and quality of essential nutrients listed in the ingredients. Premium dog foods follow this order: animal proteins, fats, carbohydrates (grains) and additional supplements. The first five ingredients are important, forming the bulk volume of dog food in a package.

Essential Protein Content

Animal-based protein is essential in the diet of a healthy dog. Quality sources of animal protein, such as poultry, beef, fish or pork, should be listed among the first five items of the ingredients. Avoid dog food brands that only list generic names of protein, for example, ‘meat’, ‘meat meal’ or ‘by-product meat’. Premium brands use ‘human grade’ animal proteins that can be consumed by people without health risks.

There is Good and Bad Fat

Good sources of fat are chicken fat, olive, canola, coconut, sunflower and flax oils. Ingredients should include Omega 3 and Omega 6 sources. Avoid no-name fats, ‘meat fat’, ‘poultry fat’, vegetable oils or lard.

Quality grains, not fillers

Grains are not essential in the diet of a dog. Premium dog food brands contain very little grain and should not appear before protein and fat sources. If grains are listed they should not be feed-grade rice, barley or oats. Avoid brands using excessive grains as fillers, such as ground corn or maize, corn gluten meal, wheat or gluten meal, soybean meal, corn bran and peanut, rice, soybean or oat husks.

Are fruits and vegetables required as supplements?

Although fruits and vegetables are not essential in the diet of a dog, they add vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, and enzymes and fibre for proper digestion. Premium dog foods may include potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, peas, beans, pumpkin, broccoli, asparagus and spinach, or fruits like apples, blueberries, mango, papaya, cantaloupe, cranberries, pears, pineapple and bananas.

Not Required: colouring, artificial preservatives and sweeteners

Premium dog food brands should not contain: Artificial Colors and Flavors: Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and other dyes

Artificial Preservatives: Ethoxyquin, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Sweeteners: corn syrup, cane molasses, sugar, sorbitol, sucrose, fructose, glucose, ammoniated glycyrrhizin, propylene glycol, Vitamin K3 and synthetic of Vitamin K.

Wayne Capriotti, who has owned pets (dogs, cats and fish) in Vietnam for eight years, is the co-founder and publisher of Me Thu Cung (Passion for Pets), one of the first pet magazines in the country.