Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.
The Natural Balance Vegetarian product line includes one dry dog food, a recipe 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 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 second 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 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 includes peas. 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.
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 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 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 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.
After the vegetable flavoring, we find calcium carbonate, likely used here as a dietary mineral supplement.
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 two notable exceptions…
First, 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.
And lastly, this food 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 Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Natural Balance Vegetarian is by design a meatless dog food.
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.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Natural Balance Vegetarian is a plant-based dry dog food using peas and potato protein as its main sources of protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.
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
05/18/2014 Last Update