Natural Balance Ultra canned dog food gets the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Natural Balance Ultra product line includes six canned dog foods, five claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and one for adult maintenance (Reduced Calorie).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Natural Balance Ultra Original
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Beef
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Liver (4.5 stars)
- Natural Balance Ultra Reduced Calorie (3.5 stars)
Natural Balance Ultra Premium Premium Lamb canned dog food was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb Formula
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Lamb, lamb broth, lamb liver, carrots, oat bran, brown rice, potatoes, dehydrated potatoes, lamb meal, canola oil, dried kelp, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, guar gum, choline chloride, natural hickory smoke flavor, carrageenan, zinc sulfate, Yucca schidigera extract, ferrous sulfate, parsley, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), sodium selenite, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin A supplement, riboflavin, calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B-12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.8%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||36%||23%||33%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||29%||44%||26%|
The first ingredient in this dog food lists lamb. Lamb is considered “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered” lamb and associated with skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1
Lamb is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second ingredient is lamb broth. Broths are nutritionally empty. But because they add moisture to a dog food they are a common finding in many canned products.
The third ingredient is lamb liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The fourth ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The fifth ingredient is oat bran, a nutritious by-product obtained from milling whole grain oats. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, vitamins and minerals.
The sixth item 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 seventh 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 eighth ingredient is dried potato, a dehydrated item usually made from the by-products of potato processing. In most cases, dried potato can contain about 10% dry matter protein which can affect our estimate of the total meat content of this recipe.
The ninth ingredient includes lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
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 have much of an effect on the overall rating of this product.
With three notable exceptions…
First, carrageenan is a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there does appear to be some recent controversy regarding its long term biological safety.
Next, canola oil can be controversial. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while some condemn it as an unhealthy fat.
Much of the objection regarding canola oil appears to be related to the use of genetically modified rapeseed as its source material.
Yet others find the negative stories about canola oil more the stuff of urban legend than actual science.2
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.
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.
Natural Balance Ultra Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Ultra canned dog food looks like an above-average wet product.
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 37% and a mean fat level of 23%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 33% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 62%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-average carbs as compared to a typical canned dog food.
Even when you consider the mild protein-boosting effect of the dried potato, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a moderate amount of meat.
Natural Balance Ultra is a meat-based canned dog food using a moderate amount of named meats and liver as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Those looking for a kibble from the same product line may wish to visit our review of Natural Balance Ultra dry 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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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".
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Notes and Updates
01/10/2010 Original review
08/16/2010 Review updated
05/26/2012 Review updated
12/11/2013 Review updated
12/11/2013 Last Update