Nutro Ultra Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nutro Ultra product line includes ten dry dog foods, seven claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and three for all life stages.
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 Small Breed Adult
- Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult
- Nutro Ultra Toy Breed Adult (4.5 stars)
- Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy (3.5 stars)
- Nutro Ultra Small Breed Puppy (4.5 stars)
- Nutro Ultra Small Breed Senior (4.5 stars)
- Nutro Ultra Weight Management (3.5 stars)
Nutro Ultra Small Breed Adult was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nutro Ultra Small Breed Adult
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, ground rice, rice bran, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), lamb meal, salmon meal, natural flavors, flaxseed, dried plain beet pulp, rolled oats, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potassium chloride, egg product, tomato pomace, dried pomegranate, dried blueberry, dried cranberry, dried pumpkin, dried spinach, dried carrot, salt, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), l-carnitine, biotin, niacin supplement, potassium iodide, copper proteinate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement (source of vitamin B2), vitamin A supplement, beta carotene, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), thiamine mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), sodium selenite, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||29%||17%||46%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||25%||35%||40%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.
After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The second ingredient includes chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The third ingredient 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 fourth ingredient is ground rice, another name for rice flour. Ground rice is made from either white or brown rice and is considered a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour.
The fifth ingredient is rice bran, a healthy by-product of milling whole grain rice. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, fat as well as vitamins and minerals.
Please notice the last three items are all rice ingredients. Even though they’re a mixture of decent quality grains, there’s a more important issue to consider here…
The controversial practice of ingredient splitting.
If you were to combine all three rice items, the rice would then occupy a higher position on the list… almost certainly nudging out the chicken to become the real first ingredient in the dog food.
The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is lamb meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
The eighth ingredient is salmon meal, yet another high protein 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
After the natural flavors, we find 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 five 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 which is also 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.
In addition, sunflower oil 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.
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.
Nutro Ultra Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Ultra Dog Food looks like an above-average dry 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 29% and a mean fat level of 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 48% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 52%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effects of the flaxseed in this recipe, and the pea protein and potato protein contained in some other recipes (puppy formulas), this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Nutro Ultra Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.
A Final Word
The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.
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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".
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.
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09/06/2014 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩