Natural Balance Vegetarian dry dog food gets the Advisor’s second lowest tier rating of 2 stars.
The Natural Balance Vegetarian product line lists just one dry dog food. The recipe is claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.
Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Brown rice, oatmeal, cracked pearled barley, peas, potato protein, canola oil, potatoes, tomato pomace, vegetable flavoring, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, flaxseed, potassium chloride, choline chloride, taurine, natural mixed tocopherols, spinach, parsley flakes, cranberries, l-lysine, l-carnitine, Yucca schidigera extract, kelp, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B-1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B-6), vitamin B-12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B-2), vitamin D-2 supplement, folic acid
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||20%||9%||63%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||19%||21%||60%|
The first ingredient in this dog food lists 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 second 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 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 includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The fifth ingredient 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.
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 sixth ingredient includes 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 seventh ingredient lists 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.
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.
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 find no evidence of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing.
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 Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Natural Balance Vegetarian 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.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 45%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And very high carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
As we’d expect, this looks like the profile of a meatless kibble.
However, even for a vegan product, this one is particularly low on protein, an amount just barely meeting AAFCO nutrient guidelines for adult maintenance.
Natural Balance Vegetarian is a plant-based dry dog food using potato protein as its main source of protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.
Those looking for a wet vegan food from the same company may wish to visit our review of Natural Balance Vegetarian 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.
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Notes and Updates
01/09/2010 Original review
08/15/2010 Review updated
01/16/2011 Review updated
11/01/2012 Last Update