Natural Balance Dog Food (Rolled)

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Natural Balance Dog Food rolls earns the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.

The Natural Balance product line includes three rolled dog food, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Natural Balance Beef Formula
  • Natural Balance Lamb Formula
  • Natural Balance Turkey Formula

Natural Balance Turkey Formula rolled dog food was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Natural Balance Turkey Formula

Rolled Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 18% | Fat = 10% | Carbs = 64%

Ingredients: Turkey, wheat flour, sugar, wheat bran, turkey liver, salt, rice flour, calcium carbonate, egg, glycerin, lecithin, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, natural smoke flavor, ascorbic acid, natural flavor, powdered garlic, vitamin E supplement, kelp meal, brewers yeast, calcium disodium, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, rosemary extract, canola oil, sodium erythorbate, vitamin A supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, sodium nitrite, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, natural mixed tocopherols

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.7%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis11%6%NA
Dry Matter Basis18%10%64%
Calorie Weighted Basis17%23%60%

The first ingredient in this dog food is turkey. Turkey is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of turkey”.1

Turkey is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.

The second ingredient is wheat flour, a highly-refined product of wheat milling. Like corn, wheat is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

For this reason, we do not consider wheat a preferred component in any dog food.

The third ingredient is sugar. Sugar is always an unwelcome addition to any dog food. Because of its high glycemic index, it can unfavorably impact the blood glucose level of any animal soon after it is eaten.

The fourth ingredient is wheat bran. Wheat bran is made from the tough outer layer of a wheat kernel. Brans are especially rich in dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

The fifth ingredient is turkey liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The sixth ingredient is salt (also known as sodium chloride). Salt is a common additive in many dog foods. That’s because sodium is a necessary mineral for all animals — including humans.

However, since the actual amount of salt added to this recipe isn’t disclosed on the list of ingredients, it’s impossible to judge the nutritional value of this item.

The seventh ingredient is rice flour. Rice flour is made from either white or brown rice and is considered a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour.

The eighth ingredient is calcium carbonate, likely used here as a dietary mineral supplement.

The ninth ingredient is 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, garlic can be a controversial item. Although most experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.2

However, the limited professional literature we surveyed provided no definitive warnings regarding the use of garlic — especially when used in small amounts (as it likely is here).

Next, brewers yeast can be a controversial item. Although it’s a by-product of the beer making process, this ingredient is rich in minerals and other healthy nutrients.

Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.

Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular dog is allergic to the yeast itself.

In addition, a vocal minority insists yeast can increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat. However, this is a claim we’ve not been able to scientifically verify.

In any case, unless your dog is specifically allergic to it, yeast can still be considered a nutritious additive.

What’s more noteworthy here is that brewers yeast contains about 48% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

In addition, we note the inclusion of canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because some worry that canola oil is made from rapeseed, a genetically modified (GMO) raw material.

Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

Next, 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.

And lastly, we note the inclusion of sodium nitrite, a controversial color preservative. Sodium nitrite has been linked to the production of cancer-causing substances (known as nitrosamines) when meats are exposed to high cooking temperatures.

Natural Balance Rolled Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance looks like an average rolled 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 18%, a fat level of 10% and estimated carbohydrates of about 64%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 18% and a mean fat level of 10%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 64% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 55%.

Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical rolled dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the brewers yeast, this looks like the profile of a rolled dog food containing only a limited amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance rolled dog food is a plant-based wet product using a limited amount of beef, lamb or turkey as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.

Not recommended.

Those looking for a better rated kibble with more meat may wish to visit our review of Natural Balance Ultra canned dog food.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every report is directly dependent upon the quality of that data.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

11/01/2010 Original review
02/11/2011 Lowered rating relative to competing products
03/19/2014 Last Update

  1. Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor and based upon the official definition for chicken published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2008 Edition
  2. Yamato et al, Heinz Body hemolytic anemia with eccentrocytosis from ingestion of Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) and garlic (Allium sativum) in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 41:68-73 (2005)
  • Jeremy

    One of the changes made to the rolls is adding less sugar. That’s probably why your dog doesn’t want it now, not as sweet tasting.

  • Mary McCulley

    I just bought a roll recently of the new formulation and my dog completely turned her nose up at it. Before she would gobble it down. Supposedly it’s a more healthy product now? Unfortunately if she won’t take it for treats I can’t use it. Too bad.

  • Ann Smorado

    No, I didn’t use the lamb rolls as their meals, I cut it up and gave it as treats. I do feed Fromm grain free kibble to my younger dog and they have a lamb formula. Fromm is a very good brand and has numerous meat formulas.

  • chelsea

    Did you find another brand that is like the original lamb formula. My dog is 5 and has been eating the lamb formula for years. Not sure what to feed him. He has a allergic reaction to the beef. And can not have chicken. Help

  • Char Ericson Holdenried

    the new formula is very poor in quality, texture and flavor. We’ve been avid customers for several years…the former formula was fresh, smelled like the meat (beef, turkey, lamb)…dogs gobbled it up ..the new formula smells like cayenne and tastes like garbage, I’m sorry but it is quite foul..my dogs will not eat any other dog food now (we mixed it in with hard kibbles)..highly disappointed.

  • Ann Smorado

    Yes, I just returned three of the dog food rolls to my local merchant and he gave me a full refund, The lamb formula dog food rolls were a big hit in our house (and many friends of mine) for years. It was a favorite of the dogs and economical training treat – cut up in small pieces. It was also great for sealing kings.

    I noticed they were missing from the store shelf in the spring and then was pleased to see them back. They only had beef so I bought one. The smell was awful – not something I want my pockets smelling like and the texture is not one that I can use as a training treat. Cut up they are to dry and crumbly, leaving crumbs all over the floor and in my pocket. My dogs really didn’t like it that much. I thought, perhaps, it was the beef. Last week, I saw the lamb and chicken. Though I always bought lamb, I thought maybe this would be close. This was even worse than the beef. I gave some little pieces to my dogs (labrador retrievers and they didn’t even like it) I returned the product to the store for refund. Labrador Retrievers didn’t like it!

    The store owner explained that the rolls were reformulated to be more balanced because some people used this as a whole diet, not as treats. That the rolls, as they formulated were really not good for a full time diet. Why didn’t they just leave the product as it was and change the labeling to state that it is really an economical treat not a whole diet???? They really had a good product there, this new one is not good. Not good at all.

    They now sell packets of soft treats, “Mini-Rewards” -one was even lamb. For 6 dollars for a 4 oz bag I will not buy those!

    They have lost a customer unless they go back to the old formula. If they have changed ownership, as someone else stated, I doubt that will happen.

  • Julie Van Heuklon

    This company was sold recently. The rolls have been changed. The one we bought is dry and has a fowl odor. Taking it back. Why fix if it’s not broken?

  • diannna

    I wouldn’t either

  • diannna

    I should have came in here first before buying the lamb and turkey, I gave my dog a lil bit of the Lamb and he started gagging/vomiting a lil like 30min after, I always just give a lil bit of a new food so I can monitor him, Now that I see this is horrible, I’m returning it tomorrow. I bought it because it’s kinda cheap but not worth it, I see cheap prices=cheap products= bad results.
    You may not see the bad results instantly like I did but eventually it could cause serious health issues due to the ingredients this food contains, Same goes for humans if we keep eating fast junk food as part of our diet, I don’t need to tell you about the high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes etc.

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  • m.ward1993

    Bought the duck and potato food roll for my pit bull to indulge in occasionally (like 1 inch of the 8 oz every other day) She loves it! Because of the sugar and molasses I wouldn’t feed any more than this. I bought the skinny roll to put some in her kong on days when she will be crated for long periods. To me its healthier than kong stuffing :P If I want to use peanut butter I will use a healthy brand of human peanut butter.

  • Elaine Third

    sugar is dangerous for all animals including humans _Linked to Cancer

  • Johnandchristo

    Hi agilityguy,

    I have a Black Lab I’m training to retrieve , I’m having very good luck training him and he loves Brothers dehydrated Canadian beef liver. I use it as training aid. 

    I always get it with my order of kibble, at wwwbrotherscomplete.com

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b6qN0vHiss

    this a video of him retrieving in the ocean . Could you post a picture of your dog? I would love to see it.

  • agilityguy

    Just bought a roll of lamb for my 2 Shelties.  They compete at a high level in agility and I was looking for some super training treats besides hot dogs, tuna fudge etc.  Others in agility are using it. Well, they went crazy over over it.  I’m not sure I would feed it to them as a steady food diet but as treats, it’s ok.

  • catherine

    The Natural Balance rep I run into all the time at the store says the Turkey one (yellow wrapper) is strictly treat but the others could be used as food – however due to sugar I personally would not use as the sold diet… that said, all 8 of my dogs love this product, and I get the big logs of beef or lamb and run them thru the food processor and divide into small zip lock bags in freezer, then when dogs get picky or bored with their food I sprinkle the Log roll crumbs over their quality kibble and it perks the dogs up to have something new in their kibble.

  • Facebook User

    i have a hananese … talk about a pain to feed and fussy!  

    i’ve been letting her have natural balance rolled food and she gained 6 lbs (she was underweight from refusing to eat) .. 
    may not be the ‘best of the best’ but she loves it! and eating beats not eating for days at a time…

    it’s the first time she’s on food with grains since she was a puppy and had ear infection problems and so far so good!

  • Nancy Hart

    I could not get my dog to eat until someone told me to try this.  She is finally at her normal weight and her fur has gotten fuller and even shiner thanks to these rolls.  I got her the turkey one and I would give it 5 plus stars.  Best thing we tried, and we tried for weeks to get her apatite back.

  • Fraenckel4

    Hi Pack Leader

     Please let me know what kind of dog food you era feeding your dog that dissolved his crystals immediately because I have a 1 year old dog with the same problem. Thanks

  • http://thegreedypinstripes.blogspot.com/ Bryan Van Dusen

    NB rolls have sugar in them, right away making them a poor option as a food. On top of that sugar is 3rd in the ingredient listing, so it’s not like there isn’t much in it.

    I can see them being cut up and used as treats, but as a food I’d never… EVER… recommend them.

    And like Shawna said… of course the dogs love them. Kids love sugar too, but are you going to feed them foods with sugar in them?

  • Shawna

    With all the sweetener and potential MSG in the food I would imagine most dogs LOVE the stuff :)..

  • JimiJC

    My dogs love the dog food rolls – they are their very favorite thing, besides me of course.  I buy it all the time and love that it says right on the package that it has no BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin.  Great for training and getting them to focus too.  I’d rate it five stars.

  • Shawna

    Honestly ;), I wouldn’t even feed this to my dogs as treats.. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryanv21 Bryan Van Dusen

    They actually have rolls labeled as “food” and rolls labeled as “treat”. The “treat” simply has sugar AND molasses, instead of the “food” only containing sugar.

    Both bad foods, but fine being cut up into treats.

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  • Pattyvaughn

    We call these puppy crack. We use them as training treats. Even picky dogs will work for this stuff.

  • Shawna

    Did you notice the “sugar” in the ingredient list…  No wonder they “go nuts”..  I LOVE a candy bar now and again too :)…  Okay, I like the candy bar for the chocolate but the sugar certainly doesn’t hurt :)…

    Although not HORRIBLE as a treat, this company should be ashamed of themselves if they market this as a meal?  Maybe they don’t?

  • JoBisson

    When our vet put our new rescue on a grain-free diet, I was sad because I thought it meant he couldn’t eat these anymore.  I found out that the duck & potato flavor is grain-free, and now we buy this one all the time.  I like to use these as treats.  The dogs really go crazy for them.  When they see me get these out of the fridge they go nuts.  We’ve also used these to hide pills in when one of our dogs had a medical procedure.

  • Scewell

    I Just found Pet Botonics food rolls @ Petsmart. I will try them next. I just opened a roll of Natural Balance. A review of Pet Botonics would be great too.

  • Rozee

    Both of my dogs LOVE these rolls but because it mentions sugar as the 3rd ingredient I only give it to them as a treat (one small thin slice / turkey roll) 2X a day.  The problem I have with it is that there seems to be a pattern with them both having loose bowel movements w/i 5 to 7 hours of having the treat.  I thought maybe it was just a coincidence so I did not give them any for a few days & then on the 3rd day gave them each one small thin slice and it happened again. Another thing is that their BM’s come with great urgency … let me out, let me out! & they both run to their area. We’ve had a problem with our senior girl (16.5 yrs.) with finding something that she is interested enough in eating more than just a few bites of … she loves these rolls so much so that she will practically ripe them from your hand … any suggestions on an alternative to these rolls that are better & that she would like?  I’ve made her homemade treats including just cooking up chicken breast & cutting up for treats but nothing seems to interest her like these rolls … hmmm, maybe it’s the sugar she likes so much?

  • SallyLucyGracie

    I think this deserves 5 stars! I have 4 dogs and every one of them loves this – they go nuts when I get it out of the fridge.  We discovered it when Brandy had to take pills after his tooth extraction and we couldn’t get him to take it in anything but this.   The ingredients are great too – very natural and no bad ingredients to complain about.   I love this product and tell all my friends with dogs about it.

  • Sillysister74

    We basically use these as training treats mixed in with regular dry Ultra or Alpha line.

    The sugar might be a little high but as a bonus treat I still give it to my dogs. It is very compact and my dogs love the anticipation of whether I am going pull out dog food or the soft roll.

    I get about 50 small training pieces from a roll.

  • Anonymous

    My dog Squeaky loves the Natural Balance Duck & Potato rolls.  I didn’t know anything about them until the gal at the pet store introduced me to them when I was having trouble getting Squeaky to eat after she was fixed.  (She is on a grain-free diet).  I also didn’t know that they can be used as treats OR food – which is great because if your dog is picky or doesn’t want to eat – believe me, she will eat this.  I like to mix it in with her dry food (she eats Natural Balance grain-free Alpha and loves that as well.)

  • “Ryo”

    Tricia, Natural Balance has a grain-free rolled food (duck & potato that’s WAY better than the rolls listed here. It’s high in sugar, but hey, if you’re using them as a treat and they’re taking up less than 10 precent of your dog’s daily food consumption. But like I said, the duck & potato roll is way better… naturally preserved (no nitrites), and potato-based instead of wheat-based. not the best food out there, but it’s the best rolled food I know of. Happy Howie also makes a decent rolled treat. It’s not grain-free (but they use rice instead of wheat) but I wanna say it’s lower in sugar than NB’s rolls. hope this helps! :)
    ~Ryo

  • Jonathan

    If this is just used as a treat, I wouldn’t think it’s a big deal… Like, you know not to eat Snicker’s for you meals, but an occasional candy-bar isn’t a big deal..

  • Tricia

    OMG I am so shocked I only feed my dogs 5 star foods and check their treats so carefully I assumed because they were Natural Balance they were good. I use these to stuff their Kongs too. Does anyone have any recommendations for a similar textured toy stuffer?

  • Pack Leader

    Personally, I find that as long as the food has rice, it’s ok for your dog. My dog had crystals in his bladder and was peeing blood. Someone suggested I change his diet to something that had rice, so I got him a dry dog food ($20) that contained rice and his crystals dissolved immediately. But, your article is very informative and I never knew about those controversial ingredients.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Pit Bull Mama… Unfortunately, I haven’t yet reviewed this product. So, it wouldn’t be fair for me to comment on Red Barn at this time.

  • Jonathan

    KM, she probably loves this food because it has sugar shockingly high in the ingredients. And the trouble with that is, dogs have no need for refined sugar. But refined sugar is addictive and tasty! :-/ So what do you do, right? Hey, what other foods have you tried? What kind of dog is it?

  • KM

    Hmmmm…I have a picky eater…and she loves these rolls…is there such a thing as too much information? lol

  • http://puppyintraining.com Dublin

    I’ve been cutting these up and using them as treats for my dogs in canine nosework training. I guess I’m going to have to re-think my doggy treats. Thanks for the review!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Nathan… Pet Botanics is currently on my To Do list. But due to our current backlog, it could be a while longer before I get to it. Thanks for providing the suggestion along with the link.

  • Nathan

    Hi Mike…I’m also interested in an evaluation for the Pet Botanics dog food roll products. I believe the parent company for the Pet Botanics brand is Cardinal Laboratories. Here’s a link to their website: http://cardinalpet.com/pet_botanics.html
    Hope this helps.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jenna… Would love to review Pet Botanics dog food rolls. But I cannot find a company owned/operated website. Every website I check is a retailer selling the product. Please provide the website address if you know it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Jenna

    I fed my dog these and then Pet Botanics dog food rolls. I am pretty sure that the Pet Botanics brand is healthier. Could you please post an evaluation,though? Thanx