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
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|
|Dry Matter Basis||18%||10%||64%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||17%||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.
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.
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.
Those looking for a better rated kibble with more meat may wish to visit our review of Natural Balance Ultra canned dog food.
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
11/01/2010 Original review
02/11/2011 Lowered rating relative to competing products
03/19/2014 Last Update
- 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 ↩
- 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) ↩