Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.
The Hill’s Ideal Balance product line includes seven dry dog foods.
Although each formulation appears to be designed for a specific life stage, we found no AAFCO nutritional profile recommendations for these dog foods on the product website. So, it’s impossible for us to report life stage targets for these recipes.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Ideal Balance Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Adult
- Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Salmon & Potato Adult
- Ideal Balance Grain Free Natural Chicken & Potato Adult
- Ideal Balance Small Breed Natural Chicken & Brown Rice
- Ideal Balance Large Breed Natural Chicken & Brown Rice
- Ideal Balance Nat Chicken & Brown Rice Puppy (3.5 stars)
- Ideal Balance Nat Chicken & Brown Rice Mature Adult (2 stars)
Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Natural Chicken and Brown Rice was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Hill's Ideal Balance Small Breed Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Adult
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, brown rice, whole grain oats, whole grain barley, brewers rice, chicken fat, chicken meal, pea protein concentrate, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, chicken liver flavor, lactic acid, vegetable & fruit blend (green peas, apples, cranberries, carrots, broccoli), potassium chloride, iodized salt, 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) = 1.7%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||23%||18%||52%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||19%||37%||44%|
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 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. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.
The fifth ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is 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 pea protein, 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 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.
The next ingredient is 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.
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.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance dog food looks like an average dry 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 24% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 75%.
Below-average protein. Above-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effects of the pea protein concentrate, flaxseeds and potato protein contained in some recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing only a modest amount of meat.
Ideal Balance dog food is a plant-based kibble using only a modest amount of chicken 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.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
08/07/2011 Original review
03/16/2013 Review updated
03/16/2013 Last Update