Natural Balance Vegetarian canned dog food earns the Advisor’s second lowest tier rating of 2 stars.
The Natural Balance Vegetarian product line lists just 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
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|
|Dry Matter Basis||23%||14%||56%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||20%||30%||50%|
The first ingredient in this dog food lists water, which adds nothing but moisture to this food. Water is a routine finding in most canned dog foods.
The second 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 third ingredient lists barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.
The fourth ingredient lists 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 item is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while a vocal minority 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.1
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 item includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The seventh item is 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.
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 item includes 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 have much of an effect on the overall rating of this product.
With two notable exceptions…
First, we note the minerals 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, 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.
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.
For this reason, the highest rating awarded any vegetarian dog food found on this website can never exceed two stars.
That said, and before we determine our final rating, it’s still important to estimate how much plant-based protein might be present.
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.
Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula is a meatless canned dog food using potato protein as its main source of protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.
If a vegetarian diet is your goal (a strategy we cannot scientifically or in good conscience endorse), then Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula may be worthy of your consideration.
Those looking for a higher protein wet vegetarian product may wish to visit our review of Evolution Diet 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
01/10/2010 Original review
08/14/2010 Review updated
01/16/2011 Review updated
10/21/2012 Last Update