Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.
The Ideal Balance product line includes two grain-free products.
Although each formulation appears to be designed for adult dogs, we found no AAFCO nutritional profile recommendations for these foods on the product website. So, it’s impossible for us to report AAFCO life stage targets for these recipes.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Salmon and Potato Adult
- Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Chicken and Potato Adult
Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Chicken and Potato Adult was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Hill's Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Chicken and Potato Recipe Adult
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, potatoes, yellow peas, pea protein concentrate, potato starch, chicken fat, chicken meal, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, lactic acid, flaxseed, vegetable & fruit blend (green peas, apples, cranberries, carrots, broccoli), iodized salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, mixed tocopherols for freshness, phosphoric acid, beta-carotene, natural flavors
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.6%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||25%||21%||46%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||21%||41%||38%|
The first ingredient in this dog food 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 second ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is yellow 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 actual meat content of this dog food.
The fourth ingredient is pea protein concentrate, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.
Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.
And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The fifth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The eighth ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.
Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.
We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.
After the chicken liver flavor, we find lactic acid, a compound found naturally in many living organisms. It’s likely added here to adjust the pH of the product which (in turn) reduces the growth of unwanted biological contaminants.
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 two notable exceptions…
First, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
And lastly, the minerals listed here do not appear to be chelated. And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.
Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance Natural Grain Free looks like an average kibble.
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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 25% and a mean fat level of 20%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 47% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 80%.
Below-average protein. Above-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas and pea protein concentrate, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing only a modest amount of meat.
Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using only a modest amount of chicken or salmon as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.
Please note certain products are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
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Notes and Updates
01/08/2012 Original review
03/16/2013 Review updated
03/16/2013 Last Update