By Nature Active Defense Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★★

By Nature Active Defense Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The By Nature Active Defense Grain Free product line includes three dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

  • By Nature Active Defense Turkey and Sweet Potato [A]
  • By Nature Active Defense Pork and Sweet Potato (4 stars) [A]
  • By Nature Active Defense Ocean Whitefish and Green Peas [A]

By Nature Active Defense Turkey and Sweet Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

By Nature Active Defense Turkey and Sweet Potato

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 38% | Fat = 18% | Carbs = 36%

Ingredients: Deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, green peas, sweet potatoes, lentils, deboned chicken, deboned herring, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried whole eggs, sun-cured alfalfa meal, tapioca, natural chicken flavor, chicken liver, salmon oil (source of DHA), coconut oil, dicalcium phosphate, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, spinach, broccoli, apples, pears, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, juniper berry extract, ginger, fennel, green tea extract, peppermint leaf, turmeric, salt, lecithin, potassium chloride, chicory root extract, vitamins [vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid], minerals [zinc oxide, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, ferrous sulfate, copper proteinate, copper sulfate, manganese proteinate, manganese oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], dl-methionine, choline chloride, yeast extract, glucosamine hydrochloride, taurine, Yucca schidigera extract, l-lysine, rosemary extract, chondroitin sulfate, l-carnitine, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus helveticus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium longum fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis34%16%NA
Dry Matter Basis38%18%36%
Calorie Weighted Basis32%37%31%
Protein = 32% | Fat = 37% | Carbs = 31%

The first ingredient in this dog food is turkey. Although it is a quality item, raw turkey contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.

The third ingredient is chicken meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The fourth ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fifth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The sixth ingredient includes lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, lentils contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The seventh ingredient is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The eighth ingredient is herring. Herring is a fatty marine fish naturally high in protein as well as omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every dog to sustain life.

This item is typically sourced from clean, undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings of commercial fish operations.1

Although it is a quality item, raw fish contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The ninth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The next ingredient is whole dried egg, a dehydrated powder made from shell-free eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With five notable exceptions

First, we find alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

Next, we note the inclusion of coconut oil, a natural oil rich in medium-chain fatty acids.

Medium-chain triglycerides have been shown to improve cognitive function in older dogs.2

Because of its proven safety3 as well as its potential to help in the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and chronic skin disorders, MCT can be considered a positive addition to this recipe.

In addition, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.

Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

Next, we find yeast extract, which is the common name for a broad group of products made by removing the cell wall from the yeast organism.

A significant number of these ingredients are added as specialized nutritional supplements while others are used as flavor enhancers.

However, the glutamic acid (and its chemical cousin, monosodium glutamate, or MSG) found in a minority of yeast extracts can be controversial.

That’s because even though the Food and Drug Administration designated these food additives to be safe decades ago4, the agency continues to receive reports of adverse effects.

So, detractors still object to the use of yeast extract and other glutamic acid derivatives and blame them for everything from Alzheimer’s (in humans) to obesity.

In any case, since the label reveals little about the the actual type of yeast extract included in any recipe, it’s impossible for us to judge the quality of this ingredient.

And lastly, this food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

By Nature Active Defense Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, By Nature Active Defense Grain Free looks like an above-average dry product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 38%, a fat level of 18% and estimated carbohydrates of about 36%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 36% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 37% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 51%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, lentils and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.

Bottom line?

By Nature Active Defense Grain Free is mainly a meat-based dry dog food using a significant amount of named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

By Nature Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

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Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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Notes and Updates

08/04/2016 Last Update

  1. Adapted by The Dog Food Advisor from the official definition of other fish ingredients as published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. Pan Y et al, Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs, British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 12, June 2010, pp 1746-1754
  3. Matulka RA et al, Lack of toxicity by medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in canines during a 90-day feeding study,Food Chem Toxicol, Jan 2009, 47(1) 35-9.
  4. L-Glutamic Acid, FDA Select Committee on GRAS Substances
  • Nancy

    Iv’e just read on a visitors post on the By nature fb page, they have discontinued the brand. Copy & paste from By natures responce to someones question: Unfortunately, the By Nature brand and its entire line of dog and cat food is being discontinued, effective immediately. This difficult decision was made based on a lack of sales, despite it being a very high quality food that was loved by many pets and their owners.