Natural Balance Vegetarian (Canned)

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Rating: ★★½☆☆

Natural Balance Vegetarian canned dog food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2.5 stars.

The Natural Balance Vegetarian product line includes one canned dog food, a recipe claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula

Canned Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 23% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 56%

Ingredients: Water for processing, ground brown rice, cracked barley, oatmeal, canola oil, carrots, potato protein, tomato pomace, fresh potatoes, dehydrated potatoes, natural flavor, peas, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, natural hickory smoke flavor, cassia gum, carrageenan gum, sodium chloride, taurine, potassium chloride, spinach, parsley, cranberries, zinc sulfate, Yucca schidigera extract, ferrous sulfate, 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, calcium iodate, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D2 supplement

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.8%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis5%3%NA
Dry Matter Basis23%14%56%
Calorie Weighted Basis20%30%50%

The first ingredient in this dog food is water, which adds nothing but moisture to this food. Water is a routine finding in most canned dog foods.

The second ingredient is ground brown rice, another name for rice flour. Ground rice is made from either white or brown rice and is considered a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour.

The third ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.

The fifth ingredient is 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.

The sixth ingredient is carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The seventh ingredient includes potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The eighth ingredient is tomato pomace. 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.

The ninth 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.

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 four notable exceptions

First, dehydrated potato is 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.

Next, peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

In addition, carrageenan is a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there appears to be some recent controversy regarding its long term biological safety.

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 Vegetarian
Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Natural Balance Vegetarian canned dog food is by design a meatless product.

So, although we do recognize the need for some dog owners to provide (for whatever reason) a completely meat-free diet, we also respect a dog’s natural carnivorous bias.

That said, and before we determine our final rating, it’s still important to estimate how much plant-based protein might be present.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 23%, a fat level of 14% and estimated carbohydrates of about 56%.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

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

As you’d expect, this is obviously the profile of a canned dog food containing no meat.

By the way, this product should only be offered to adult dogs. In no case should it be fed to puppies or pregnant or lactating females.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Vegetarian is a plant-based canned dog food using a moderate amount of potato protein as its main source of protein, thus earning the brand 2.5 stars.

Not recommended.

Special Alert

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

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

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

05/12/2014 Last Update

  • Ellen

    My dog develops weeping ulcers between her toes on a meat-based diet. She was on antibiotics and steroids as I tried various limited ingredient diets, trying to find the one meat she could tolerate. But her condition worsened and I could not bear to see her continued suffering. My vet recommended Natural Balance vegetarian and she was back to her old self in a few short days. Awesome stuff!

  • Chris

    Betsy thanks for your flags and bullying

  • Chris

    Thanks for all of your lies Shawna and downvotes it is bad larma

  • Ca

    Betsy tattletale

  • Cavalier

    Shawna tattletale

  • Rachael_dawn_de

    I would like to add an underrepresented voice here, the medical side of needing a vegetarian diet for your dog. My 11 year old Boxer developed food intolerance issues and cannot eat any protein source found in dog kibbles, not even the hypoallergenic options. I almost lost him, and then I found a vegetarian recipe soy protein based dog food. I really wish there were more choices in vegetarian dog foods for my situation. Please keep in mind that there are some situations in which you have no choice but to feed your dog a vegetarian diet. My dog is happy and healthy again, thanks to vegetarian kibble.

    I have a very difficult time finding helpful reviews for vegetarian dog foods, in particular because the veg foods are being compared to normal meat protein foods and not to other veg foods. Any advice, or recommendations anyone?

  • Shawna

    Well that’s just silly talk Marie!!! I LOVE reading your posts!!! ;)

  • InkedMarie

    I should just be a silent member of this forum because between what Shawna, Sandy, HDM, Betsy, Patty etc write, there’s no need for me to say anything. Beside the fact they always beat me to it, they say it so much better.

  • Shawna

    Vegetarian vet Dr. Karen Becker writes

    “Is it intelligent or humane to dismiss nature’s design for our canine companions in favor of a human belief system that supports vegetarianism or veganism?

    I don’t think it is.

    I’m a vegetarian. Many of my Natural Pet clients and pet-loving friends and associates don’t eat animal products. But we feed animal products to our dogs and cats because we have witnessed first-hand what it means to the well-being of our beloved pets to be nourished as nature intended.

    If you can’t tolerate the thought of feeding meat to a pet who is a carnivore, I strongly encourage you to acquire a pet that will thrive on a plant-based diet instead.” http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/01/19/vegetarianism-for-pets.aspx

    Vegetarian vet Dr. Martin Goldstein also recognizes the importance of meat in a dog and cats diet.

  • Pattyvaughn
  • John

    This reviewer claims to be unbiased, yet gives no vegetarian formula more than 2 stars, even Natural Balance and Nature’s Recipe, both fine dog foods with a great track record. Many dogs have benefitted from these formulas, stopping itching and allergies due to the junk in meat and meat by-products. I have successfully raised 2 dogs, both rescues and older when I got them, on vegetarian dog foods. They both thrived and had good health. I now have a rescue poodle who is probably 8 or more years old, and is doing fine on vegetarian food so far. You are entitled to your opinion, but do not call it “unbiased”. Read articles by Dr. Armaiti May, DVM. She has a deep understanding of vegetarian food for dogs.

  • Joanna

    Like I said , my dog have been tested and she can NOT eat meat!!!

  • Pattyvaughn

    If a dog was allergic to every kind of protein, it would die. There are proteins in plants too and dogs can be allergic to them as well. Did you ever think about that?

  • Joanna

    How abt dogs with protein allergy?? Did u ever thought abt this!!! Some dogs have allergies and they just can’t eat meat!!!

  • Shawna

    Their physical appearances are different for sure..  But, their digestive system is no different then a wolfs.  There is really no disputing this fact.  If one choses to feed vegetarian to their dogs/cats it is their choice but you can’t change their physiology to match your beliefs.

    For those worried about 4d animals in their dogs food — they can simply create meals at home using store bought meats.

    Good posts Addie and Marie!

  • Marie

    Kim, it is true that many breeds bear little physical resemblance  to their wolf ancestors. But science will otherwise disagree with you – the domestic dog is biologically a sub-species of wolf.

    Even if you truly believe that the mere ten thousand or so years man has influenced the reproductive patterns of the dog has gotten them to the point that they somehow have altered nutritional requirements, this isn’t long enough to make them VEGANS, which is what this food IS.

    Short of a rare medical issue on part of the animal, anyone feeding this food is projecting their own moral standards onto their dog and therefore not taking their well-being into consideration.

  • Addie

    I think anyone uncomfortable feeding their dogs a meat based diet should look into getting herbivorous pets, like rabbits or guinea pigs instead. It’s unfair to push your beliefs on an animal that can’t make a choice.   

  • Kim

    How insane that this website will never give more than a 2 star rating to any vegetarian dog food. Nevermind, the reality that most pet foods are created using the remnants of the 3 D’s (downer, diseased, dying animals) or basically anything “not fit for human consumption”. Dogs being carnivores likes their ancestors? What a joke. Domestic dogs bare very little resemblance to their wild ancestors.

  • Suzie

    I think it is important to not that this one might be good for dogs with liver issues since meat based foods are harder on the liver….

  • Michelle

    jude, Oh I forgot so is Pork.

  • jude

    what nonsense.while a dog may be the ancestor of a natural carnivore,it is anything but natural to raise dogs.they are the ancestors of wolves but humans have controlled every aspect of their lives since domestication.anyone who recognises this perversion will want to stop supporting the slaughter industry,stop breeding dogs and feed a vegetarian diet.it takes a person with a conscience to see this.