Nutra Nuggets Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

Nutra Nuggets Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.

The Nutra Nuggets product line includes four dry dog foods, two claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two for adult maintenance.

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

  • Nutra Nuggets Puppy
  • Nutra Nuggets Professional Formula
  • Nutra Nuggets Performance Formula
  • Nutra Nuggets Lamb Meal and Rice (3.5 stars)

Nutra Nuggets Performance Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nutra Nuggets Performance Formula

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 20% | Carbs = 43%

Ingredients: Chicken by-product meal, whole grain ground corn, wheat flour, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), brewers rice, beet pulp, egg product, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, fish meal, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis26%18%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%20%43%
Calorie Weighted Basis24%40%36%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken by-product meal, a dry rendered product of slaughterhouse waste. It’s made from what’s left of a slaughtered chicken after all the prime cuts have been removed.

In addition to organs (the nourishing part), this stuff can contain almost anything — feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs — anything except quality skeletal muscle (conventional meat).

On the brighter side, by-product meals are meat concentrates and contain nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

In any case, although this item contains all the amino acids a dog needs, we consider chicken by-products an inexpensive, lower quality ingredient.

The second ingredient is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain. And aside from its energy content, this grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

For this reason, we do not consider corn a preferred component in any dog food.

The third ingredient is wheat flour, a highly-refined product of wheat milling. Like corn, wheat is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

For this reason, we do not consider wheat a preferred component in any dog food.

The fourth 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 fifth 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 sixth ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The seventh ingredient is egg product, an unspecified (wet or dry?) form of shell-free eggs. Quality can vary significantly. Lower grade egg product can even come from commercial hatcheries — from eggs that have failed to hatch.

In any case, eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The eighth ingredient is flaxseed, 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.

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 three notable exceptions

First, we note the inclusion of fish meal, another protein-rich 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

Unfortunately, this particular item is anonymous. Because various fish contain different types of fats, we would have preferred to have known the source species.

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.

Nutra Nuggets Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutra Nuggets looks like a below-average dry dog food.

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 29%, a fat level of 20% and estimated carbohydrates of about 43%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 31% and a mean fat level of 20%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 41% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 65%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutra Nuggets is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of chicken by-product or lamb meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.

Recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

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

12/21/2010 Original review
04/17/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Pattyvaughn

    There is no way here of looking at the ingredients list for the others. Dr Mike tries to pick one formula that is about average for all the formulas to show the quality of ingredients that the company chooses to use. All of the formulas are rated the same or there would be a note in parentheses beside the formula saying what its different rating would be. I’m guessing that the formula you like is slightly lower protein than the chicken ones, but has less red ingredients, so that their ratings ended up the same.

  • InkedMarie

    Above the yellow box is the list of foods from Nutra Nuggets. Since none of them have a different rating next to the name, you can assume they’re all 3 stars

  • Crazy4cats

    They are all four rated the same. As patty said, one is picked as a representative for the group. You can always go to their website to get more information on a food or to see the ingredients for the other flavors. This website is just a very good starting point on choosing a dog food. Good luck.

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I don’t see any way to look at the ingredients/ratings for the other formulas?

  • Pattyvaughn

    This review is for the Lamb Meal and Rice too. If you look above the yellow box, you will see a list of foods that this review is for. Dr Mike just picked the one in the yellow box as a representative for the group.

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    Totally agreed! The lamb formula is the only one that I’ll ever get for my boys! It is, most definitely, the highest-quality food I’ve found yet (In ratio to price, of course). It is so much less-spendy than the garbage Beneful (seriously, Beneful is junk! I mean, what good advertiser would actually put pictures of corn and wheat right on the bag!? I think the expensive price all goes to the fancy pictures and pretty food-colorings… UGH!)

    I will have to get some at Costco next time I’m there. (it’s about an hour’s drive though…) At Fred Meyer’s it’s 25$ for 40lb.

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I would not recommend the puppy formula, but I would definitely give the Lamb Meal and Rice formula at least 3 stars! It has Lamb meal #1. and Peas are #2… I’ll admit wheat is third, and the list goes on.

    In my opinion, the Lamb formula is the highest quality of them all….(even though at the store, it’s the least expensive) It’s the only one I will ever feed to my dogs!

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I really wish they’d write a review on the Lamb Meal and Rice formula, too! It has actual lamb as the first ingredient instead of corn or chicken by-product. The Lamb formula is the only one I ever have and ever will get for my dogs… (I still laugh, the one that I find best quality is the cheapest out of the Nutra Nuggets’ formulas!)

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    Agreed completely with Hound Dog Mom. Also, find something with glucosamine and chondroitin (you really want them together, they work as a pair…just like Calcium and Vitamin D for us), as well as Omega-3′s, that’ll keep the joints strong and healthy.
    I have a hard time finding foods that have enough levels of those to TRULY help her joints, so I buy her joint supplements.
    Coconut oil, flax oil, fish oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and whole raw eggs are all great supplements. Just buy them in the people-area…don’t worry about finding fish oil in the pet section, it’s always too expensive! (I don’t really recommend more than 2-3 of those daily…too much oil can lead to greasy fur and other problems)

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I never really thought the fur/feathers would act as fiber… but maybe you’re right.

    The main plus about the wild dogs eating entire animals is the organs. They got the liver, kidneys, spleen, heart, and the stomach (which would, more than likely, have digesting grass/grains/fruit, so it’d be rich in fiber and vitamins).

    I’ve always wanted to do a raw diet for my dogs (I’ve seen the results, and they are FANTASTIC!), but I’ve never been able to find enough affordable organ meats, or even entire animals.

    It’d be pretty awesome if you could just raise your own animals (or hunt them) and feed the whole thing to the dog….I’m much too squeamish to raise my own mean-critters though, of course!

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I have 3 dogs, two of which are on Nutra Nuggets. This isn’t the best food out there definitely; but if you are looking for something economical that still has good benefits, I’d highly recommend it!

    It is cheaper than many 1-2 star foods, so it’s a no-brainer right there!

    It really depends on your dog though. If the coat is shiny, the waste is minimum, their dog-odor is little-to-none, energy level is high (for their age, of course), and eyes are bright/glossy, then you’re on the right food — don’t change it!!!
    If they have a dry, flaky, itchy, or extremely oily coat, along with foul/abnormal odor, dull eyes, and low energy, then you need to find something better quality.

    I have one guy (Kelpie/Aussie, 2y.o.) who has been on it since we got him, and he has amazing fur, and zero odor. His waste isn’t as small as it could be, but it’s fine.
    My next fella (hound/lab/wolf/collie/etc. 6y.o.) has been on it for a few years now. He has great energy levels, bright eyes, but he does have a pungent odor to him and a slightly dull coat. I’m guessing his aging makes him more sensitive (I’m hoping to switch him when I can afford it)
    My deceased guy (Pit bull/Rottweiler, 2 y.o.) was on it his whole life. He had amazing fur, great energy, incredible muscle-tone, and glossy eyes. He made tons of waste, I admit, but it was never abnormal looking.

  • Carlyn

    I have a super sensitive 12y.o. Lab. She was starting to get her skin-problems again from NN food, so I switched her over to NutriSource (a 4-4.5 star brand). I have no clue what it was, but that made her break out into horrible hot spots.
    I switched her to Dog Lover’s Gold and she got better. Then I tried a grain-free food…. never doing that again! She isn’t itchy at all, but her foul odor is coming back…

    Nutra Nuggets definitely isn’t the best out there; but I’d say it’s about the best you’ll find for the price.

    I only get the Lamb/Rice formula though, since Lamb Meal is first instead of by-product.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    The nutritional goals for a dog with hip dysplasia should be:

    1) Not to provide excess energy (calories). The dog should be kept very lean. This can be done on any food as long as you carefully monitor portion size, although it may be easier to accomplish on high moisture diets (raw, canned, dehdyrated) or lower fat foods.

    2) Avoid inflammatory ingredients such as grains. Avoid foods that have a skewed omega 6 to omega 3 ratio as excess omega 6′s can promote inflammation (for a dog with HD you’d probably want something in the 2:1 – 4:1 range). Add antiinflammatory foods such as turmeric, tart cherry, boswellia, etc. I’d also recommend looking into some joint maintenance supplements with ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel, esterified fatty acids, etc.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I feed a homemade raw diet and I do include veggies about 20% of the diet because I feel that dogs can benefit from the additional antioxidants. However, wild canines consume little to no vegetation and don’t suffer from digestive issues. This is because they consume the whole animal including fur, feathers, bone – all of which serve a similar purpose to fiber.

  • Jesse Stephens

    I don’t necessarily believe that a Raw diet is the wrong way to go about it. You just need to make sure that you substitute in some sort fiber or your dog will seek it out them self (eating the grass, or plants around the house). Just like most mammals, K9′s need fiber to help process their foods. This is where the grain comes in for the kibble diets.

    Using the theory that dogs should eat what they would in the wild (the raw theory) is not wrong. Just remember that dogs in the wild eat plenty of vegetation as well. I don’t know what raw diet your feeding. I do know that Nature’s Variety Raw diets have vegetables mixed in with the food to help support this.

  • Pattyvaughn

    So are you saying that your children eat the exact same meal every day of their lives? And that’s OK?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Jesse –

    Could you explain what about a “basic grain based food” makes it superior to a balanced raw diet? I feel that a properly balanced raw diet is the ideal diet for a dog.

    I do agree with you, however, that every food (kibble at least) has filler and that grain-free foods aren’t exempt from this. Many people seem to think that grains-free automatically equates to a superior product, but generally the grains are merely replaced with potato, legumes, tapioca, etc. which I’m not entirely convinced are much healthier (if at all healthier) than grains.

  • Jesse Stephens

    I’ve been in the pet industry for almost 18 years. I have
    heard so many different stories and myths about what food is good for dogs,
    corn causes skin problems (myth), wheat is bad for dogs (myth), and grain free
    or raw diets are better for dogs than basic grain based foods (myth).

    First off, EVERY food has a filler. Just because it’s a “grain
    free” diet, does not make it exempt from this. Fillers are inexpensive fruit, vegetable
    or grain ingredients designed to dry out the food and help stabilize the
    solidarity of the kibble itself.

    The allergy angle is a beautiful ploy that pet food
    companies came up with 25 years ago to pull consumers off of Hill’s food. It
    worked magnificently and has changed the way people think about dog foods. The
    fact: less than 1-thenth of 1% of dog have a food allergy of any kind.

    The bottom line is this. The best food to feed your dog is
    the one that work best for your dog. I have 3 dogs. They are my family and I
    care for them as my children. My oldest is 13 and has been fed Nutra Nuggets
    her entire life. The vet recently told me that she is amazingly healthy for her
    age and see no reason for her to slow down anytime soon. My other 2 dogs feed
    the same brand.

    This doesn’t mean Nutra Nuggets is the best food for all
    dogs. It just means it’s worked for me. Don’t fall for the BS. Your dog will
    tell you if the food works. Not some website or salesman in a store…

  • Cam

    Between Nutra Nuggets large breed puppy and Diamond Naturals large breed puppy, which one is better for a dog with displasia .?

  • André

    You are right, I wrote that review because I thouth I recall the puppy formula had chicken meal but it has Chicken by product as well.

  • InkedMarie

    I’m surprised this food is as highly rated as it is, with chicken by product meal the first ingredient, followed by whole grain corn & wheat flour.

  • André

    I gave my Rough Collie puppy Nutra Nuggets after trying lots of other foods, and he loves it! A lot! It has been his favorite food so far, and his coat was very shiny and healthy back then. I would like the advisor to reconsider about the puppy formula rating and the lamb and rice rating those two formulas have diferent ingredients and I personally think are the top two products for this brand.

  • musher

    my dogs love the nutra nuggets. even my picky eters. I had been feeding them a 4 star expensive food that was cutting into my food budget so a friend recomended it. I feed them the lamb which is corn free although it is not advertised as a corn free food. after switching from the expensive food my dogs fur seemed to get better and my old dog didnt seem so stiff. even the picky eaters liked it. I wish they had chosen to anylize the lamb variety because in my opinion after comparing the indgredients myself I feel it is even superior to the chicken. I get 40 pounds for about 24 dollars at fred meyer. A good price for a higher quality food that even the picky eaters eat. I know friends in my dog circle that are feeding “name brand” foods with the same star rating and paying twice as much. i am pleased with this food

  • DKB_1

    So my German Shepherd is very picky. After spending tons of money on 5 star foods and mixing it with the best canned food, I decided to give Nutra Nuggets a try. My instructors have been suggesting this food, that they have been using on their dogs for years! So far she loves it! She lays down at her bowl, sometimes pulling it closer and munches away. She even looks better and it is only day 3. I got a 40lb bag for 26.99! I was spending close to that for a small bag of dog food of top of the line brands. I am feeding her the adult lamb and rice…and her energy level is up!

  • irodtx7

    Im Looking For A Dog Food For My 11Week Old American Bulldog. I Also Was Recommended On Nutra Nuggets What Kind OrThe Nsme Of The Bag Should I Look Into For My Pup???

  • http://www.facebook.com/emma.sewardknight Emma Jean Seward Knight

    I feed this one also from Costco, It is a great food, my picky Pug likes this and so does my Lab. No corn, so the Pug doesn’t get dry skin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.tripper.3950 Jack Tripper

    also, unlike the one that is rated, the lamb & rice one contains no corn and no by-products.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.tripper.3950 Jack Tripper

    the lamb & rice formula is about $20 for 40lbs at costco. though it isnt reviewed on here, i’d say it would likely be a 3.5star food. it contains four “red” ingredients: wheat flour, rice bran, brewers rice & beet pulp. most of its protein comes from lamb meal with a little bit from egg and fish meal. it has chelated minerals and contains a lot of supplements including three that are rarely found in dog food: glucosamine, chondroitin & ascorbic acid (vitamin c). i think its an above average food and would be perfect for people with a lot of dogs to feed and/or people on a budget.

  • foleyoh

    Nutra Nuggets Lamb & Rice is a very good dog food. My lab mix has been on it for 11 + years and everyone remarks on his lovely soft coat. (Plus, he’s never been ill his whole life)

    6 year old Boxer gets compliments for how sleek and soft she is, too. People think she’s much younger because her coat is more like puppy fur; not brittle or dry. Can’t beat the price, either. If you can quit feeling like a snob, try this great product!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CG4SCZPHV7NG23P2REA5CO47NQ Joe M

    We tried: Raw, Eagle Brand, Holistic Select, Taste of the Wild, Avo. Nothing was agreeing with our Shepherd. Probably the Holistic Select worked the best, but sporadically would be accompanied by bouts of diarrhea. We train three days a week a German Shepherd Club and the breeders kept telling us to go on Nutra Nuggets. I was stubborn and kept wanting to try all the “natura” grain free, 5 star brands. Well we switched to the NutraNuggets and he has been firm now for two months. His coat is soft, and shinny. People always comment on his coat.
    Plus he loves the food.

  • Marilyn

    I just purchased this product today…it also is good for terminating tear staining in my Maltese (purebred). I have tried Angel Eyes, after 3 months you’d think that it would work plus use the wet pads…ZERO! So I was asked to buy Nutra, Lamb and Rice for our adult boy and girl and Nutra puppy for my Maltese. Will let you know if the staining disappears…:D

  • Bob k

     Catch22can – First of all you do not just switch dog foods, you should slowly transition.  You say your dog did well on a Lamb and rice based dog food then you moved them to something quite different.   Why?  Perhaps if you would have moved them to a 5 star Lamb and rice food you would have had different results.  A 3 star food is a decent food.  Its the 1 and 1.5 stars that are real crap foods.  

  • Catch22can

    I listened to all the hype about how many stars this or that dog food had. I changed my roti/boxer to a 5 star Taste of the Wild. She had been on NutraNuggets Lamb Meal and Rice since switching from puppy food. Her coat (much like a dobi) was shiny and soft. After 8 months of the 5 star brand her coat was dull and brittle. When talking to her vet she suggested putting her back on the NutraNuggets Lamb and Rice. After only a month of her being back on this food she is now soft and glossy. No more listening to hype. She is staying with Nutra/Nuggets. I get 3 times the amount of kibble for less than half the price of the so called 5 star brand.

  • yosemite_sam_antha

    NutraNuggets Lamb Meal & Rice Formula is not rated here, so I am adding my comments about that particular brand:

    I was feeding my two cattle dogs Nutro small crunchy bites lamb, but because of cost to order and our remote location, switched to NutraNuggets Lamb Meal & Rice Formula which contains the following ingredients: lamb meal, peas, wheat flour, rice bran, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), brewers rice, dried plain beet pulp, egg product, flaxseed, natural flavor, fish meal, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, glucosamine hydrochloride, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, chondroiton sulfate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

    I am very happy with the results and the dogs love it.

    On another note, I have also added vegetables to their diet, primarily carrots, garlic and some olive oil. At least once a week, I steam a cup per dog of carrots in the microwave ( 1 cup, 1/4 cup water, microwave on high for 4 minutes), sautée two chopped up cloves of garlic in light olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin oil) and mix it in with the carrots (and the steamed carrot water) and add this to their dog food. We also will add leftover pesto or spaghetti sauce to the overall mix, when we have it. I spoke with our vet who also suggested green beans, even the canned would be okay.

    It’s all just to help get a little more into their lifetime diet than processed dog food.

  • Connie

    I use Nutri Nuggets Lamb and Rice. It is a lot like Kirklands and can be found at Smart and Final Stores.  We don’t have a Costco within 100 miles. Lamb and Rice is much better than their Chicken and Rice product and my dogs just shine and have had no issues.  Great value as it is around $25 for a 40 pound bag. 

  • Angelldobies

    I started feeding nutri nuggets more than fifteen years ago and it changed my first doberman’s dry brittle coat to a glossy black.  I will probably continue it since this year blue buffalo has caused over-growth problems in one of my puppies.  Puppies are on Purina Pro Plan (vet’s suggestion), but they prefer nutra nuggets (and try to steal them from the older dogs.)  At six months plus, we are mixing in a little of the nutra nuggets with no problems showing up.  The only issue I had with dobie number one was weight, but our yard was not big enough and dog parks were a new concept during her lifetime.  Dobie-mix number two was perfect weight with open feeding her whole life.  Current adult dobie is trying to get fat on the puppies food as nutra nuggets aren’t interesting enough, but it is winter in the frozen north so I am cutting her some slack this year.  She won’t be able to get any puppy food in a few short months.  Yay for the big yard with room to run like horses that we have now.