Natural Balance Ultra (Canned)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

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

Protein = 36% | Fat = 23% | Carbs = 33%

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
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis8%5%NA
Dry Matter Basis36%23%33%
Calorie Weighted Basis29%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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 36%, a fat level of 23% and estimated carbohydrates of about 33%.

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.

Bottom line?

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.

Highly recommended.

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.

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

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

  1. Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor and based upon the official definition for beef published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition
  2. Mikkelson, B and DP, Oil of Ole, Urban Legends Reference Pages (2005)
  • Shar24

    My local pet store had a great sale on these so I picked up a few cans. My dog seems to like it but that’s not saying much because I don’t think he has ever met a food he doesn’t like. I didn’t notice the ‘hickory smoke flavor’ on the label when I bought it but this stuff smells awful. It just reeks of that fake hickory smoke smell and it’s headache inducing not to mention the effect on my dogs breath. I will use the cans I have and then I won’t buy again.

  • DEAMY

    MY DOGS HAVE BEEN ON NATURAL BALANCE BY DICK VAN PATTEN FOR YEARS. I HAVE A LARGE LAB, A SCHNAUZER AND MINATURE PINCHER, ALL HAVE THRIVED, EACH DOG HAS DIFFERENT NEEDS.

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  • beachrick

    Decided to try after reading these reviews and finding it in Pet Supermarket. Opened the can….could have POURED the stuff out! Gave it a two minute try – the most avid eater of our two little dogs – a Morkie – gave it a couple of licks and gave up. So we switched to the tested Cesar filets. In middle of night she vomited and this morning has diarhhea. Not a fan of Dick van Patten anymore…something went bad IN the can.

  • Barbarasmith7165

    Did you know that the  company (NB) will not tell where the ingredients are sourced?  They will not tell you that they are not source in China, more importantly. 

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  • MonkeyDoo22

    I think this should be listed under the 5 star dog canned dog foods.  I’ve fed this for years to my puppies through adults (I have four dogs) and they love the taste and are all very healthy, gorgeous dogs.  Best thing was that I didn’t have to switch from a puppy food to this because it’s for all life stages.  Good value as well – this is an affordable way to give your dogs top quality nutrition.

  • Cindy

    We gave our dog the Natural Balance Ultra Chicken Formula and after the second time he vomited it up and now he wont eat it any more unless I mix it up with Pedigree or some thing else.

  • Ro Mey

    I use this product , but grain free. Has really worked with my doggies allergies. I use dry and wet.

  • erin c.

    Natural Balance Original Ultra Premium
    I fed this to our dog yesterday and she ate it, but this morning she wouldn’t eat it. She avoided the area.
    So at lunch I offered it again. Refused again.
    So I offered Wellness Turkey Stew. She gobbled it up.

    I didn’t like the smell of the Nat. Bal. Ultra. It smelled a lot like the L.I.D. Duck & Potato. Both smelled too strong. They kind of reminded me of BBQ but without looking very tasty.