Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.
The Hill’s Ideal Balance product line includes 12 dry dog foods, nine claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and three for growth (puppies).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Puppy (4 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult (2.5 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Mature Adult (2 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Puppy (4 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Large Breed Puppy (4 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Adult (2.5 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Large Breed Adult (2.5 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Slim and Healthy Adult (3.5 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Mature Adult (2 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Large Breed Mature Adult (2 stars)
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult Natural Lamb and Brown Rice
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Active Natural Chicken and Oats (3.5 stars)
Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult Natural Lamb and Brown Rice was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Hill's Ideal Balance Adult Natural Lamb and Brown Rice
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Lamb, brown rice, whole grain oats, whole grain barley, chicken fat, yellow peas, pea protein concentrate, chicken meal, dried beet pulp, chicken, 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), taurine, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), 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||24%||20%||48%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||20%||40%||40%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb. Although it is a quality item, raw lamb 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 brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
The fourth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fifth 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 sixth 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 seventh 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 meat content of this dog food.
The eighth ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The ninth 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.
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 three notable exceptions…
First, flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
Next, 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.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance looks like an average dry dog food.
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 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 70%.
Below-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, pea protein concentrate and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below-average amount of meat.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a below-average amount of lamb or chicken as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.
Please note certain recipes 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.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
08/07/2011 Original review
04/03/2014 Last Update