Natural Balance Original Ultra (Dry)


Rating: ★★★½☆

Natural Balance Original Ultra Dog Food earns the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.

The Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health product line includes four dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

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

  • Natural Balance Original Ultra Small Breed Bites
  • Natural Balance Original Ultra Puppy Formula (4 stars)
  • Natural Balance Original Ultra Chicken, Chicken Meal and Duck Meal
  • Natural Balance Original Ultra Venison, Turkey Meal and Lamb Meal (3 stars)

Natural Balance Original Ultra Small Breed Bites was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Small Breed Bites

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 26% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 52%

Ingredients: Chicken, brown rice, oats, chicken meal, potatoes, brewers rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried carrots, duck meal, salmon meal, pea fiber, oat fiber, natural flavor, tomato pomace, flaxseeds, brewers dried yeast, menhaden oil, salt, potassium chloride, dl-methionine, choline chloride, dicalcium phosphate, minerals (zinc amino acid chelate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron amino acid chelate, copper sulfate, copper amino acid chelate, sodium selenite, manganese sulfate, manganese amino acid chelate, calcium iodate), l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), l-tryptophan, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), mixed tocopherols and citric acid (preservatives), taurine, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried spinach, l-lysine, dried kelp, dried Yucca schidigera extract, rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis23%13%NA
Dry Matter Basis26%14%52%
Calorie Weighted Basis23%31%46%
Protein = 23% | Fat = 31% | Carbs = 46%

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 includes oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The fourth ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The fifth 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 sixth 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 seventh 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 eighth ingredient includes dried carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The ninth ingredient includes duck meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The next ingredient lists salmon meal, yet another high protein meat concentrate.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

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 six notable exceptions

First, pea fiber is a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. Aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no other nutritional value to a dog.

Next, tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.

Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.

Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.

In addition, flaxseed is 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.

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.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health looks like an average dry 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 26%, a fat level of 14% and estimated carbohydrates of about 52%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 27% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 58%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed and brewers yeast in this recipe, and the pea protein contained in some other recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Original Ultra is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of chicken or turkey meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.


Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

A Final Word

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

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

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.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

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

Notes and Updates

01/08/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Bebe

    I feed NB bc it’s what I can afford and add a raw egg each day. I read that eggs are an easy protein for dogs to digest. I also add canned green beans sometimes. I’m always looking for a better dog food that i can afford.

  • Pitlove

    I work at a small pet store so I get it there. u can also order it on amazon or call an independent locally owned pet store and see if they have it or can get it through a distributor.

  • Ms. Perfectly Flawed

    Ok thank you so kindly for your response I will try them both, where did you purchase the salmon grizzly oil? we have a trader joes and whole foods by my home or my local pet store which is a ma and pa store just might have it or some sort of salmon oil.

  • Pitlove

    I use Grizzly Salmon oil and my pitbull who was losing hair, has had all those bald spots grow back since on the salmon oil. I would suggest using some unrefined coconut oil on his hot spots. I’ve use coconut oil to heal some of the sores that my dog was getting and they would be gone in a day or 2. also if he tries to lick coconut oil its safe because you can feed it to them as well. they do make sprays for hot spots, but I’ve never used them since thats not what my dog has.

  • Ms. Perfectly Flawed

    We live in Indiana and yes they did recommend that I add meat to the NB food and actually he likes this food but I am adding fish oil to his meals, what should I expect since adding the oil? Can I also add directly to his hot spots??

  • Pitlove

    where do you live? I’m in the deep south and my pitbull shed a lot more this year than last. my boy has the same issue and adding salmon oil has helped his skin a lot. I also do weekly baths with an antifungal shampoo. he’s eating Fromm right now and has been doing great on it. I don’t care for Natural Balance at all. it’s a food people at big box pet stores default to when they don’t really know what else to say. it’s carb heavy and doesn’t have a lot of meat. probably why they suggested adding raw meat to the diet. that isn’t a bad idea though.

  • Ms. Perfectly Flawed

    Can anyone help me, my 8 year old pit has skin issues and I think between Eukanuba and Purina, these products have really harmed my dog more than help him. At bath time he has an excessive amount of hair loss, he’s constantly scratching, and he has sore patches underneath his hair which is what falls out usually when he gets a bath. I recently asked someone at petco for their recommendation and NB is what I was told to try, with added meat and fish oil. Is this a good idea, or can someone please help. He’s an very active indoor dog and absolutely my Big Baby. I don’t like to keep switching his food at his age but I am on the hunt for the right diet. PLEASE anyone…

  • Pitlove

    Yeah from what I know anal gland issues are more common in smaller breeds.

  • sharron

    thanks – yes, she’s a yorkie/chihuahua

  • Pitlove

    Yes it is probably an anal gland issue. Contact your vet and speak with him/her about possibly bringing her in to do an internal expression of her glands. I recommend NOT doing it at home yourself as you can cause serious damage if done incorrectly.

    Describe the symptoms, explain the food change and see if your vet thinks it could be something else as well. It’s possible she is impacted and it was building up over time. She is a small breed correct?

  • sharron

    good morning – i’ve been feeding lexee this food for the past couple of days and she has been eating it without any fussiness – this morning she’s been scooting around on the carpet, she hasn’t done this in months – i’m pretty sure it’s not her anal glands, must be that she has an itchy behind – should i assume that it is something in the food
    that’s making her do this – her bowel movements are fine, but like i said she is scooting and seems to be licking herself a lot more than she did before i started feeding this NB

  • Pitlove

    feed what you know works and what she will eat

  • sharron

    i’m going to stick with the royal canin dry and i bought a few cans of merrick that i will mix in – thanks for your help

  • Pitlove

    Well, if you are still noticing this by tomorrow or Tuesday for every bathroom break, consider a different food as she could be intolerant to something in NOW.

  • sharron

    she likes it well enough but i noticed on our walk this afternoon she is having trouble pooping and what she can poop is very runny, never G I issues on the royal canin

  • Pitlove

    trial and error. Its hard but sometimes thats what you have to do. glad shes liking the NOW. I took home a sample of Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream from work and of course my dog liked it lol. Sigh, he WOULD like a Diamond product.

  • sharron

    thanks – i did comment that i bought a small bag of the NOW small breed grain free just recently – now she having trouble pooping and what she does poop is very runny

  • theBCnut

    I think so. I think adding stuff to kibble improves it. I can’t feed straight canned, raw, etc myself, but I always try to improve on plain kibble.

  • sharron

    just wanted to let you know that lexee wouldn’t eat the fromm or the natural balance – so i bought a bag of the NOW small breed grain free and so far so good – just thought i would share that little tidbit with you

  • Pitlove

    yes I know. Thats why seeing one whole meat does not do anything. Dr. Becker states in many videos that you want to look for foods that have whole meats or meat meals in the first three ingredients. When I see Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey for instance that tells me that the majority of the food is actually meat based and not plant, since the meat meal boost the animal protein level so much.

  • Storm’s Mom

    “Whole meats” are listed first because they are water-inclusive and thus heavy, and ingredients on a dog food label must be listed by weight BEFORE processing. After processing, the water, and thus the weight, disappears, so you’re left with very little of those “whole meats” in the kibble your dog eats. So, the reality is that while those “whole meats” ingredients look good being in the first few ingredients, they would actually fall way down the ingredient list on an “as fed” basis, leaving in this case some chicken meal and a whole lot of non-meat filler. Dr Mike’s review says that Fromm Gold only contains a “moderate” amount of meat, which doesn’t equate to a “lot” of meat. More often than not, higher protein does mean higher meat content.

  • sharron

    when i read fat content on a GA i always think of fat on a steak or a box of crisco – does the fat come from the meat in the food

  • sharron

    thanks a lot – will check into the fromm gold – the fromm gold weight management was a write off

  • Pitlove

    I have fed foods that are 24% protein on the GA and my pit maintains his ideal weight. Really nice example of a food that is seemingly low protein, but actually has a lot of meat content is Fromm Gold.

    I care more about actual meat content than what the GA says the protein is. Fromm Gold’s first three ingredients are whole meats or meals. Thats what I want to see.

  • Pitlove

    I have no desire to feed Natural Balance so I don’t need to worry about it. I was just answering the OP’s question.

    Also higher protein doesn’t always = higher meat content.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Even that one’s only 28% protein on a GA basis. That’s about the lowest protein % I’d be willing to go, But it has chicken, so it’s a moot point with my chicken allergic/intolerant guy.

  • sharron

    so am i on the right track feeding her a food that is 23% and 13% fat along with adding wet food ?- have to add the wet or she won’t eat and can’t afford to do straight wet, would love to

  • theBCnut

    Yes. Too much would be overnutrition, as in the dog is obese.

    Some people feed their dogs nothing but whole carcass animals, so those dogs are getting something like 15% bone, 10% organs, and 75% meat.

    Also, too much would be a dog that needs a certain amount of fiber in it’s diet or it gets constipated. Or if the cuts of meat are too fatty and that upsets the dogs system, that would be too much, but it would be too much fat.

    As far as how much does a dog have to have, research says they need something like 16-18% of their total diet in protein. Minimums are meant to keep them alive though, not what is best.

  • Candice Kamencik

    If you want a higher meat content food – buy the NB formulas with higher protien? Like the Synergy formula or other. That seems like a simple solution.

  • Storm’s Mom

    It’s possible to give too much of anything.

  • sharron

    how much meat does a dog have to have in a day – is it possible to give too much

  • Pitlove

    Not a fan of Natural Balance. They tend to forgo meat content for carbs. Also not a huge fan of the fact that they are owned by Smuckers now.

  • sharron

    does anyone feed this food to their dog, if so, is it decent – bought a bag of fromm a few days ago – won’t have anything to do with it even with can mixed in

  • Crazy4dogs

    I don’t shop for food @ petsmart very often. I just looked at their list online. Aquariangt gave you a list of what I’d pick. I do like Nature’s variety and Wellness Core (only).
    You might want to add some wet food after he’s used to the food.

  • Bobby dog

    Thank you, again!

  • aquariangt

    No. You saying that just made me reread and it’s American Nutrition :)

  • Bobby dog

    I am following you around today! Did the Simply Nourish line recently switch to Ainsworth as their manufacturer?

  • Shea

    I haven’t looked into Nulo. So thanks for the recommendations. She was on Wellness and Wellness Core awhile back. I cant get her to eat it at all anymore. Tried Simply Nourish once but she got stomach issues from it. And not sure about Nature’s Variety but will see. Thanks! She is doing good on Fromm for now.

  • aquariangt

    PetSmart-Nature’s Variety, Wellness (I personally only ever use CORE) Nulo, Simply Nourish is also an option, it’s PetSmart’s house line made by Ainsworth, but in all honesty, they have some storage issues it seems and there have been a lot of complaints, so be careful.

  • Shea

    I agree on that! What other brands at Petsmart would be good to rotate with Fromm? I might just stick with Fromm and go through their different recipes instead.

  • Pitlove

    Natural Balance was popular at my old job as well. Mainly because people who didn’t know much about dog food would just recommend that brand because it wasn’t super high priced and it “looks” like a good food on the outside. I do not like NB however, or the people who now own them.

  • Crazy4dogs

    I think it’s hard to be sure of quality when they keep changing ownership. Naturapet (Evo, Innova, etc.) is a perfect example of a great brand being destroyed.
    As C4C suggested, I do rotate foods also. That’s where the probiotics help.

  • Shea

    Thanks for the article. I wasn’t aware of this because I was reading old reviews on it.

  • Crazy4dogs
  • Crazy4dogs

    It was sold to del Monte and recently bought by Smuckers. It’s hard to keep track.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi c4d-
    When I was at my favorite feed store last weekend, I asked a sales person what she thought their most popular kibble is. She answered with Merrick and Natural Balance. I actually was a little surprised. So, yes, you are right, Natural Balance appears to remain quite popular! Hopefully Smuckers does right by it!

  • Shea

    Yes I agree that it does look a little low in protein. I thought NB was bought out by Del Monte. I was looking at this food to rotate in because it seems to be the best choice at Petsmart. She doesn’t do well on Wellness and their other brands just aren’t up to par. She has had stomach issues with other brands so I thought this would be a good option for her. Thanks for your advice!

  • Shea

    Thanks for the advice! I was looking for flaxseed and probiotics in foods to feed her. She does really well with the Fromm so far but I was looking for something I could pick up at Petsmart if I needed to also. And I do like to rotate brands after a few months.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Probiotics don’t have to be given daily. They do help with transitions to new foods. I use a spoonful of plain Kefir @ breakfast.

    Natural Balance has been a very popular food, especially for dogs with allergies or GI issues. I’ve never used it as the protein is very low in the original formulas. They were recently purchased by Smuckers and have added new high protein formulas. I guess we’ll have to see how they do.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Shea-

    It is a good idea to rotate foods like you are thinking about doing. I agree with Candice that the probiotics in dry food might not even be active anyway so I wouldn’t not buy a food because it doesn’t contain any. It is best to add them in yourself if you believe your dog needs them. Here is a link on probiotics:

    Good luck!

  • Shea

    Thanks so much for your advice. I just started her on Fromm 4 star nutritionals and all of their foods contain prebiotics and probiotics. This is food I have to order by the way. Just a few days ago, our petsmart started carrying Natural Balance and was wondering about it. I still might rotate it in later. I had read mixed reviews about probiotics in foods but wasn’t sure.

  • Candice Kamencik

    If your dog had hard stools, you can add some water to their food, or supplement with fiber, such as canned, unsweetened pumpkin.

  • Candice Kamencik

    Probiotics are really only necessary if your dog is on antibiotics or has some intestinal/immune system issue already. In older animals, giving them a “boost” of probiotics is nice, especially if they are quality. Dog food that claim that have them I give a weary eye to though. Because 1) it’s not needed on a consistant basis, and 2) live culture probiotics (which is what you want if you’re going to do it) can’t really be sustained in dry dog food. If you do what to give probiotics, the most important thing is to determine what type of probiotic microorganism you need for your dog’s condition. I recommend staying away from Lactobacillus and try for Bifidobacteria instead. While there are a lot of different kinds, Bifido seems to be the most helpful for dogs.

  • Shea

    I noticed this food doesn’t have probiotics. Is it important for my older dog to have a food that contains this? I was thinking of adding this to my dog’s food rotation.

  • francis mingora

    i seen in utube dogs scratching bad and the vet in utube said to give dogs that scratch natural balance sweet potaoe with fish my dog use to eate natural balance and her stolls wear hard and dry am putting her back on natural balance i learned to reed the ingredence on the bag high proten and low crabs our sugested evrry thing a bout dogs is on utube how to make dog food u name it

  • Francis Mingora

    i seen on utube u add this to yur dog food its called dinovite and lickochops it gives the dog or cat evrry thing they need its for dogs how smell and lose there hair there web cite is its on utube ppl swear buy it if u make home made dog food u have to add this stuff to there food for dogs how scartch bad to yur dog will be healther then evrr in sort time trust me i would get it i have no cc card i cant find it wear i live ok guys

  • Francis Mingora

    am with u on that i had my dog on natural balance to yes her stools wear hard and dry when i took her off her stools gut softer looking i need more reserch be for i take her back on it

  • Francis Mingora


  • Francis Mingora

    ill be honest with u if natural balance is made now in china i dont want no part of it i whunt get it for my dog

  • Francis Mingora

    look up dinovite and lickochops they make the same stuff go in utube look it up its for dogs how stink scrtch and lose hair its great stuff u add it to there food no mather what they eate good for cats to trust me

  • Francis Mingora

    i heard the best food for dogs is home made dog food make a meet loaf with raw hamburger and cooked white rice and put eggs in blender with the shells add it to the food then mixe it all up cook it on 350 degres 1 hr then put it in pans store in freezer u have t0 add dinovite and lickochops in the food its good for dogs that stink scratch and lose there hire go in utiube look up dinovite and lickochops

  • Julia Harbeck

    I have heard since they got bought out the food is being produced in China, any truth in that? My cat has started throwing us the last 3 cans so we are looking for a different brand and you can’t seem to find the beef rolls for the dog.

  • Jeremy

    I believe you must be talking about the LID formulas they make. The Ultra did change formulas recently, but mostly it was removing lamb meal and shuffling some of the other ingredients around.

  • Candice Kamencik

    More protein is actually less waste produced, or as you so eloquently
    put it less “poo and farts.” The more fiber and vegetable matter a dog
    gets, the more frequent their stools will be. Protein is more easily
    digested and absorbed by the body, so there is less waste when fed a
    food with a high quality protein source.

  • Guest

    More protein is actually less waste produced, or as you so eloquently put it less “poo and farts.” The more fiber and vegetable matter a dog gets, the more frequent their stools will be. Protein is more easily digested and absorbed by the body, so there is less waste when fed a food with a high quality protein source.

  • Betsy Greer

    Unfortunately, the second ingredient is also about 80% water so there is no way there’s more meat protein than sweet potatoes.

  • LabsRawesome

    Seriously….You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • yourmoms

    Seriously…unless you have a farm/hunting dog, over 24% protein is excessive. It won’t hurt the dog, but a lot of protein does not a good petfood make. Anywhere between about 18%-26% is great for house dogs and family pets. Any more and you are wasting money honestly. I guess if you like extra poo and farts, the more protein is better…

  • yourmoms

    I called the customer service line about this. They actually have changed the order of how they list ingredients. The ingredients are weighed and listed prior to dehydrating, so the sweet potato(with more water weighs more). After drying, the percentage of meat by weight is higher.

    I will say the new food rolls are aweful! I complained pretty hard on the phone

  • helen

    the ingredients have changed since being bought out, sweet potato is now the first ingredient, i was so disappointed i changed brands

  • swak

    hound dog

  • contrabantio

    To be honest, Natural Balance is the best food for my particular dog. I own an english bulldog and have given him everything from iams to royal canine bulldog specific. The NB with sweet potato limited ingredients is the best food yet. I use the rolls to grate over his food for a treat or add a spoonful of plain yogurt. The major difference is how much better his skin is. He has flea and seasonal skin allergies. When compared to other foods, this stuff seems to help alleviate some of the issues. Beyond that, I am blessed with a super healthy dog. I fed him NB as a puppy as well. The time he got sick was when I swapped immediately instead of going little by little.

  • Shawna

    Just to clarify Richele,

    Many of us think that Natural Balance are good foods in that they use MUCH better quality of ingredients (or at least did before they were bought–not sure now). But there are many foods on chewy and at many boutiques that have significantly higher protein. When comparing quality ingredient food to quality ingredient food, NB foods have below average protein amounts.

    And likewise, when comparing the 26% protein in NB Ultra to the 31% in Beneful, NB gets a higher rating, even though less protein, due to the quality of the protein used.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Richele –

    No dry Purina foods sold at grocery stores contain 10% protein.

    The protein levels in dry Beneful formulas range from 25% – 28%.

    The protein levels for Dog Chow’s formulas range from 21% – 27%.

    It’s possible you’re misreading the label.

  • Shawna

    Just wanted to make sure. It has been some time since I looked at grocery store foods so I looked up a few of them. Per the reviews here on DFA

    –Beneful has 31% protein and is rated 1 star
    –Dog Chow has 24% protein, 1 star
    –Kibbles N Bits 23% protein, 1 star
    –Pedigree 30% protein, 1 star

    The amount of protein in Natural Balance is in line with grocery store kibbles. BUT the quality of the protein is significantly better allowing it to have a much higher rating at 3.5 stars.

    Edit — to confirm as things change and Mike has to revisit reviews to catch up to those changes, I looked up the “as fed” info on the manufacturers website.

    Beneful “as fed” protein amount is 27%

    Natural Balance Ultra “as fed” protein amount is 23%

    Both are identical to what Mike reports as the “guarateed” amount (which is slightly different than the dry matter amount shown at the top of each review).

  • Richele Grenier

    I have to say I’m a little offended that you are all assuming I cannot tell the difference between wet and dry food. I assure you I have been looking at dry and am not attempting to compare wet and dry as equals.

    Purina (Beneful, Dog Chow), and thus any grocery store brand, which are relabeled Purina kibble, tends to hover around 10% as far as I’ve noticed. Yes, many brands will have a crude protein closer to 20% if you look at the grain-free option, but non grain-free has much lower protein content.

  • Shawna

    Hmmm? Interesting

    Can you give me an example of a grocery store kibble that has only 9 to 10% protein?

    As I mentioned before, if you are looking at canned foods you have to convert them to dry matter to compare them. Dr. Foster & Smith’s website has a good explanation of how to convert “as fed” to “dry matter” so you can compare their nutritional analysis to kibbled diets.

  • Richele Grenier

    Then perhaps the article should clarify “typical BALANCED dog foods,” which it does not. The average consumer would call a typical dog food one that is found in their local grocery store. And I have not limited myself to the big box pet stores, because I actually refuse to shop from them. I visit local, specialized stores and use sites such as and petflow. Hardly limiting sources.

  • Dori

    Sorry Shawna, I answered to Richele before reading the last line of your post. If you or someone can explain to Richele the correct way to convert to dry matter I think that might help. I’m not sure if I explained it correctly or even if it’s actually correct. Thx

  • Dori

    I think what you are not taking into account that though they claim 9 – 10% protein, that figure then has to be converted to “dry matter” which is what Dr. Mike does on the individual reviews. That may be where you’re getting confused. You would have to look at the moisture content on the label and subtract the protein they claim from the moisture then what you’re left with is the dry matter protein %. (I believe that’s how it’s done if memory serves me correctly).

  • Shawna

    The minimum protein allowed for an adult dog in a “complete and balanced” kibbled diet is 18% and for puppies is 22%. Anything below that can not state they are complete and balanced. Canned foods state their amounts as an as fed versus dry matter basis. When converted to dry matter they will usually, if not always, have more protein than many kibbled diets.

    A few of the foods I feed with significantly more protein than 23% — Orijen reviewed here on DFA has 42% protein. Nature’s Logic has 38%, Nature’s Variety Instinct has 39%, Earthborn Primitive Natural 42%.

    If you limit your shopping to places like PetCo and PetSmart you are significantly limiting your options.

    If you are looking at canned foods, you need to convert the numbers to dry matter to be able to compare apples to apples.

  • Richele Grenier

    While I did find this article helpful, I must say I take issue with one line: “Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.”

    What are you considering to be a “typical” dog food, then? I have been tirelessly researching dog food, going into pet stores to read product labels, reading reviews and veterinarian recommendations and guidelines, and 23% protein is, sadly, far above average! Most that I have seen can only claim 9-10%! So how can you call 23% “below-average”? I think you are living in a fantasy world where all dog foods contain 30%+ protein.

  • Yvette Frias

    my Siberian husky and black lab stopped liking it but the only good thing in was my husky got a shiny coat. Unfortunately They both started itching and black lab development and ear infection. So I got the totally awesome brand of food Whole Earth Farm the grain free chicken and turkey all breed all stages of life. They love it.

  • jess

    Should consider food rotation. I’m doing this for my 1 year old mini poodle. He is more than happy. I do mix with wet food too.

  • jess

    Agreed. To me no product in the market is perfect. Is all merely depends on your pet. Wellness is rated at 5-6 stars super premium food but just too bad that it does not work well for my poodle cos my girl couldn’t take any food which is high in protein. What is the actual cause of the nail to fall off? is easier for the vet to just said it was due to the food. If so, which ingredient of it that caused the problem. I just started my little girl with LID NB & I hope it works well on her. At least she eliminate less.

  • amy

    *too many potatoes/ sorry.

  • amy

    I had my 1 yr old chi/min pin on NB ultra and it was simply too high of carb at 53%. Developed smelly skin, yeast, ear inf and even a uti. This was all while on ultra and Natural balance LIDS. Too mutant potatoes and grains. Then switched to Whole Earth Foods and things improved. Now transitioning onto Nutrisca and even better results. Dog doesn’t smell and itching decreased dramatically. Just wanted to share. Nowmy goal is to have a 4-5 food rotation and I am entertaining the idea of Nutrisca, Amicus, wellness, Solid Gold and merrick. Even though the latter three have grains, they are below 43%. High carbs, I believe we’re the culprit. Natural balance LIDS were in the 60’s range.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Often pyoderma happens because of a food intolerance, so take the ingredient list of your current dog food with you to the store and try to find a food that is as different as possible. Make sure at the very least that the protein and carb sources are different.

  • Sherri Davenport

    My bassett hound has pyroderma (skin irritation) and I was wondering if anyone could suggest a food that would help.

  • CAR MAN 100

    my dog was raised on natural balance duck etc neaver had any truble i took her off it i dont no way i did shes 1 yr and 3 muths old now her stols wear hard and dry on the natural balance i think one day ill put her back on natural balance i dont no i reed what others say take it to heart

  • CAR MAN 100

    my dog likes natural choice lamb and rice she cleens the bowl all the time her stols our good she use to be pickey eather she use to scratch her self like crazey untel i gave her natural choice lamb and rice to each his owen i fund out if dog eates to fast to much doesnt chew food right they will trow up its nout the food

  • CAR MAN 100


  • InkedMarie

    The only ultra that starts with rice is the reduced calorie & the other one is the vegetarian.

  • Greyhoundzzz

    One of our local pet store owners had mentioned that the formula for Ultra had changed since they were acquired by Del Monte. I checked the label and confirmed that brown rice is now the leading ingredient. That’s not to say much since we really don’t know how close the percentages of each ingredient were…but I find it interesting that there have been numerous comments on different sites about their pets exhibiting changes to their eating habits (incl. mine). This is sort of a good read for future reference in either staying or switching from Natural Balance:

  • Candice Kamencik

    She might, but I’m not going to guess. Allergy, etc. isn’t a negative of the food though, it’s a medical condition of the dog, which is why I asked what exactly was wrong. If a person is lactose intolerant, that doesn’t mean milk is bad, same with dog food.

  • aimee

    She may be referring to Symmetric Lupoid Onchodystrophy

    A food allergy has been identified in a few cases of this disease, so it
    may be appropriate to go through a strict , 8-12 week hypoallergenic
    food trial.”

  • Candice Kamencik

    What exactly would you like to be changed?

  • Candice Kamencik

    Can you share what exactly your vet said was wrong? Some kind of deficiency, etc. Cause that seems…really odd. You can feed your dog terrible food and it’s nails aren’t going to fall off.

  • JennyLee

    I have been feeding my small dog natural balance ultra for about three months. He’s 12 years old and has been very healthy most of his life. During the time that he’s been eating Natural Balance, all of his nails have fallen off. The vet has run numerous blood panels on him and has concluded that it is likely the food that is the problem. I plan on switching as soon as I can find something else. Just wanted to caution anyone else, if you’re dog is experiencing something similar it’s likely because of the food.

  • somebodysme

    That is a shame! Obviously something changed in the Ingredients. I’d write them and just ask if the ingredients have changed and see what’s different. I’m on the potato and rabbit and every time I open a new bag I cross my fingers because it’s really working great and I sure hope it doesn’t change!

  • William R James

    My lab-chow mix used to shed like crazy. I would brush everyday and sill. the inside of the house would be littered with lots of hair. A year or so ago I switch to N.B. Ultra dry and behold, the problem improve so much, that I no longer bother brushing because I don’t get any hair, and her coat has become very shiny and healthy. Clearly, to me diet has something to do with scheding . Lately, still using N.B Ultra dry, her coat does not seem as healthy, and she bites at her coat and has developed some hot spot. I don’t know, but I’m switching dog foods.

  • CR

    I put my dog on NB just over a year ago. I didnt know much about dog nutrition for sadly most of my dog’s life. Hes now 9. Im scared to even imagine what those other horrible foods may have done.

    Hes had chronic ear infections in his younger years (lab mix) and a VERY sensitive stomach.

    Ive noticed with NB ive had the least amount of stomach upsets and bouts of diarrhea. They still happen from time to but the amount has been drastically reduced.

    Havent had ear infections come back in a very long time (not contributing that to the food, they seemed to stop coming back some time before I started him on NB.

    Havent really noticed difference in energy levels or coat though. He is getting older:(

    Has anyone used or heard of NuVet? The claims on the site are a little ridiculous. Im considering but dont know if its complete bs or not.

  • DJ Catlin

    I have been recently experiencing the same problems with Natural Balance Ultra. My dog has been eating it since he was weaned but recently it has been really irritating his digestive system.

  • Pattyvaughn

    It isn’t good for your dogs digestive system to eat the same food long term. There is no such thing as a perfect food so feeding a variety of foods is much healthier. rotational feeding supports a wider variety of probiotics in the gut, which in turn proides a huge boost to your dogs immune system. You should pick a few different foods and rotate between them.

  • Katie

    My dog has been eating the Natural Balance Ultra Original for almost her entire 5 years – it seems the recipe has changed as it in not agreeing with her anymore and it even looks different. It is a lighter color and has affected my dogs digestive system. Frustrated…

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Unless Del Monte alters the formulas the review isn’t going to change. Dr. Mike’s reviews are based on the ingredients and the nutrient analysis – not who owns the company.

  • AnonymousViewer

    In light of the news below, could you revisit this review by 2014?

  • Troika

    I feed 14 Dalmatians Natural Balance Ultra Original. I love this food. I understand there were recalls on some varieties because of the Diamond plant problems. Those did not affect the plants where the dog food I order is created. The 23-24% protein is a perfect level for a breed that forms uric acide stones from high protein content. I fed another famous brand for 16 years and started having severe gastrointestinal problems with my seniors. While I changed varieties within the brand (ranked low on this site), the problems persisted. Once I changed to NB, I had dogs I had to force-feed eat eagerly. Stools and coats are lovely.

  • my car man

    i can remmber in the old days dogs eate left overs from the table u didnt have all kinds of dog food in the store they wear healthy lived long life no one wants dog to fat dont over feed yur dog hamburger and rice cooked is good for dogs some dogs whunt eate there dog food after that some dog foods come from kill houses wear kill horses and ect all dogs our nout the same like ppl we can eate only certin things i was feeding my dog natural balance after reeding bad things on it now i dont no what to feed her her stoll is good on it nout messey just right am confused

  • Pattyvaughn

    Maybe you should look up megacolon instead.

  • Cynthia Pharm.D.

    Sorry but I dont believe you. Think ur a scam for the company…….

  • cynthia Pharm.D.

    Natural flavor usually refers to a form of MSG. I won’t eat it & certainly won’t give it to my dog.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Yes, there can still be MSG because natural flavor can potentially contain MSG. They can also tell you that the food is MSG free if they don’t directly add the MSG and it’s just in the natural flavoring.

  • Tenar41146

    Thanks for your reply!

    NB claim on their website that they do not use artificial flavors in their foods. Can they legally still add glutamic acid/MSG to this food? 

  • sandy

    Yes this food was recently updated, but the previous review date was 5/2011.  Some of the old reviews would exclude the lower rated formula of a group in the average.  But these updated reviews takes all the formulas into account.  It’s kind of like why throw out/disregard the food with the lowest grade?  The food should be graded for all their formulas.  If you’re not feeding the reduced calorie formula, the other 2 are probably very close to 4 stars.

  • Tenar41146

    But it was rated 4 star on this site until very recently.
    So what changed? does this kibble now has a new formula with less meat? or does this site has a new more severe rating system?
    I started feeding this kibble to my dog about 3 weeks ago, so I would like to know.

  • sandy

    The group average of just 24% protein along with 56% carbs does not qualify it to be a 4 star.

  • tenar41146

    Why has this formula been downgraded from 4 stars to 3.5 stars?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi tenar41146 –

    The AAFCO defines “natural flavor” as:

    “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, essence or protein hydrolysis, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

    Unfortunately “natural flavor” can often contain free glutamic acid (MSG).