Nutro Ultra canned dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nutro Ultra product line includes six canned dog foods, four claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and two for all life stages (Puppy formulas).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Nutro Ultra Adult
- Nutro Ultra Puppy
- Nutro Ultra Senior
- Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult
- Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy
- Nutro Ultra Weight Management
Nutro Ultra Adult canned dog food was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
Nutro Ultra Adult
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken broth, chicken, chicken liver, potato starch, lamb, salmon, lamb liver, turkey, wheat gluten, egg product, peas, carrots, salt, ground flaxseed, whole brown rice, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), herring meal, potassium chloride, guar gum, sodium phosphate, dried plain beet pulp, ground rice, rolled oats, natural flavors, tomato pomace, alfalfa meal, calcium carbonate, cranberry meal, blueberry pomace, sodium alginate, tricalcium phosphate, pomegranate powder, avocado powder, iron proteinate, xanthan gum, zinc proteinate, pumpkin powder, vitamin E supplement, spinach flakes, sodium ascorbate, choline chloride, zinc oxide, taurine, l-carnitine, beta carotene, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate, potassium iodide, vitamin A supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||40%||28%||25%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||31%||51%||19%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken broth. Broths are nutritionally empty. But because they add moisture to a dog food they are a common finding in many canned products.
The second ingredient is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1
Chicken is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The third ingredient is chicken liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The fourth item lists potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate used here more for its thickening properties than its nutritional value.
The fifth item is lamb. Like chicken, lamb is another protein-rich meat.
The sixth item is salmon, another quality raw item. Salmon is a fatty marine and freshwater fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every dog to sustain life.
After lamb liver and turkey, we note the inclusion of wheat gluten. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once wheat has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.
Compared to meat, glutens are inferior plant-based proteins low in some of the essential amino acids dogs need for life.
This inexpensive plant-based ingredient can significantly 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 tenth 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 next ingredient is 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.
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 six notable exceptions…
First, 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.
Next, tomato pomace is another 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.
In addition, we note the inclusion of avocado powder, a dried by-product obtained after removing all the oil from the fruit.
Avocado can be somewhat controversial.
Supporters claim the ingredient to be nutrient rich and beneficial to a dog’s skin and coat — while others worry over what are mostly unsubstantiated concerns over potential toxicity.
These fears appear to originate from a 1984 study in which goats (not dogs) consumed the leaves (not the fruit) of the Guatemalan (not the Mexican) avocado and became ill.2
Based upon our own review of the literature, it is our opinion that the anxiety over avocado ingredients in dog food appears to be unjustified.
Next, 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.
This recipe also includes sunflower oil, which is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3’s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
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.
Nutro Ultra Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Ultra canned dog food looks like an above average wet product.
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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 40% and an average fat level of 27%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate portion size of 25% for the full product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 67%.
Near-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
However, when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the wheat gluten, peas, flaxseed and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a canned dog food containing only a moderate amount of meat.
Nutro Ultra is a meat-based canned dog food using a moderate amount of chicken and chicken liver as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Those looking for a comparable kibble from the same company may wish to check out our review of Nutro Ultra dry dog food.
A Final Word
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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".
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Notes and Updates
12/19/2009 Original review
07/26/2010 Review updated
05/20/2012 Review updated
12/01/2013 Review updated
12/01/2013 Last Update