Nutro Ultra (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Nutro Ultra Dry Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Nutro Ultra product line includes 11 dry dog foods, eight 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 Toy Breed Adult
  • Nutro Ultra Toy Breed Senior
  • Nutro Ultra Small Breed Adult
  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult
  • Nutro Ultra Small Breed Senior
  • Nutro Ultra Small Breed Puppy
  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy
  • Nutro Ultra Weight Management (3 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

Protein = 29% | Fat = 17% | Carbs = 46%

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
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis26%15%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%17%46%
Calorie Weighted Basis25%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 is 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.

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 includes 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

We are pleased to note that, unlike many fish meals, this particular item appears2 to be ethoxyquin-free.

After the natural flavor, 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.

The next 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.

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 four notable exceptions

First, 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.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

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.

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 Dry Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Ultra dry 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 29%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 46%.

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.

However, when you consider the protein-boosting effects of the pea protein and potato protein contained in some recipes (puppy formulas), this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutro Ultra dry 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.

Highly recommended.

Please note some products may have been given higher or lower ratings based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

Special Alert

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, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits 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

12/19/2009 Original review
05/28/2010 Review updated
07/21/2010 Review updated
12/27/2010 Review updated
04/04/2011 Updated to more appropriate 3.5 stars
09/04/2011 Updated to 4 stars (new recipe, menadione removed)
03/10/2013 Review updated
03/10/2013 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. Nutro Customer Service via email dated 6/13/2013
  • Jeff Jennings

    We have a 14yr old Golden Retriever, and a 10yr old Chesapeake Bay Retriever . The both have been fed Nutro Ultra since they were puppies. They are now on the Senior Breed, and we have never had any issues with their diets etc.. We do add Chicken , and Beef Broth to their food, and they never seem to get tired of it, and of course they would love to have more than what the vet. recommends we give them. Thank you for all the good information here..

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Simply Nourish also has a small breed food and it might cost less than Nutro or about the same. You can improve a food by adding things like canned food, healthy chopped up left-overs (meat and veggies), even packaged fish like sardines.

  • NayandCookie

    Duh. The one she is eating is considered an all life stages recipe. Ok I get it. So then yeah after the bag of the smaller kibble assuming the vet gives her a clean bill of health and I don’t need to suppliment her food with anything I will decide which one to keep giving her. So far I have had no issues with the nutro brand. I wouldn’t mind considering a better quality, but I’m not trying to end up in the poor house :)

  • NayandCookie

    Thanks for the tip! I will try that. Once I realized I accidently ordered the nutro ultra small breed puppy and not the nutro ultra puppy it reminded me about considering changing her food since her age is no longer on the bag. I haven’t given her that small breed puppy one for a while, but since its the same ingredients, just smaller kibble I will trust one bag won’t hurt her. First time not buying in the store. Wanted to do an auto order program since I don’t live near a petstore anymore. Go figure, I order the wrong one. Anyway, the one bag will give me time to consider an all life stages food. :) thank u again!

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Generally speaking for pugs, some folks switch them to adult food around 8 months old. But she can eat any food at her age whether it’s for puppy/growth, adult maintenance, or “all life stages”. “All life stages” means the food is for puppies and adult. I prefer a food for “all life stages” or “growth/puppy” since they meet the more stringent nutrient profile.

    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/dog-food-vitamin-mineral-standards/

    You can flood her food with water to slow her down somewhat. Adding water also helps to ensure she is getting enough fluid which helps them keep their bladder flushed out too. For all things pug, check out pugvillage dot com.

  • NayandCookie

    I have been feeding my pug the nutro ultra since she was 8 weeks old. At 9 months old the pet store suggested I switch to the regular puppy one instead of the small breed. He said the difference was the size of the kibble. Shes now 15 months 12 pounds and I planned to give her the reg puppy formula until she goes to the vet next week to see if I should start her on sdult small breed. U accidently ordered online the small breed puppy (the smaller kibble) and wondered if its a big deal to give her the one bag since I don’t want to ship it back. She inhales her food, so I was thinking maybe the smaller kibble would be better for her anyway.

    I was also wondering at what age do people generally switch to adult food? Thr nutro ultra puppy actually says its used for adults too.

    Suggestions?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    It’s never too late to switch to a better quality food. If you do want to switch what I would recommend doing is starting with a 3 star food and do a very gradual switch over the course of a couple weeks – say 25% new/75% old for 4 – 5 days, 50%/50% for 4 – 5 days and then 25% old/75% new for 4 – 5 days until she’s completely transitioned to the new food. I’d also highly recommend getting her on a quality probiotic and enzyme supplement during the transition. After she’s been on the 3 star food for a couple months and any digestive disturbances have cleared up you could go for a 4 start food using the same approach and eventually you may be able to move to a 5 star food if you want. If you end up deciding not to switch, I would at the very least recommend topping the Beneful with a quality canned food and/or healthy foods like tinned sardines, eggs, yogurt, leftover lean meat, etc. to provide her with some quality protein. Good luck!

  • resqdog

    Help! I have been feeding my rescue lab Beneful for the last 6 years and she has been doing fine…. but now I read all the posts and feel terrible about it. Should I switch her now? She’s 10 yrs old.

  • Andres Ripoll

    I bought this kind of food a few months ago and my little doxie developed crystals in the urine, we went to the vet and got her on a special diet, the xrays showed nothing. We then switched to her regular food which is also Nutro and the crystals vanished. We tried Ultra a second time (Currently) and the symptoms started again so we threw it out and got her back on her regular food.

  • Dave’s Hounds

    you might also try Natures Logic – it is a 5 star and you may find it also works well

  • D.DiPierro

    I adopted a greyhound 13 years ado and and Nutro was recommended to me by the the rescue facility. In all all the years I had my beloved Ginger she loved the food and NEVER had any problems with it. I recently adopted a new greyhound after loosing Ginger to bone cancer( not related to the food at all) and have tried her on multiple holistic foods because I want to provide her with not only the best food but something she can enjoy. After months of loose stool and her picking through her food as to say Daddy I don’t like this I picked up Nutro Ultra large breed, she LOVES IT and her stool is much better. I discussed it with my trusted vet and she had no problem with it saying all dogs digest food differently and trusted the brand.( she did steer me away from smaller brands as she was concerned they don’t have the qualty controles in place like the larger brands) I know others dislike the brand but I trust it, my dog loves it and as long as they continue making it in the United States we are a Nutro family. I hope this helps at least one person in making a choice, I’ve made my self crazy looking at all the choices. Good day and love your pet!

  • ANON

    GUYS DONT BUY NUTRO it has caused many deaths to cats and dogs my friend had 6 cats but when she started feeding them nutro 2 died please if you care for your pet try to avoid nutro!

  • InkedMarie

    I think you need to do “tough love”. Pick a food. Leave it down for 15-20 minutes. At that time, pick it up, he gets nothing until the next meal.

  • “Lucky”

    our vet suggest purina one, but I did not buy it as it has a poor rating, then a batch was recalled in august.. Purina has been around for years, when did dog food become a speciality item sold only at finest stores with a high dollar price..

  • “Lucky”

    I am on here nearly every day trying to find something best for my lab, he is so picky one week he will eat merrick, the next he won’t. I have tried just about every dry food on the pet advisor top list, today it’s nutro natural choice ultra dry I am thinking of trying. He is a rescue dog and he had heart worms when we adopted him, he came thru the operation to kill the worm and he has been thru so much we don’t want to feed him a dog food that is not good for him. He is 4 yrs old now and weighs 75 lbs, we love him so much, the best dog in every way. I love this web site but getting to be overwhelming finding the right/safe foods…we only buy food made in the U.S.A. I learned that a barcode that starts with a 01 or 02 is USA made

  • “Lucky”

    I am on here nearly every day trying to find something best for my lab, he is so picky one week he will eat merrick, the next he won’t. I have tried just about every dry food on the pet advisor top list, today it’s nutro natural choice ultra dry I am thinking of trying. He is a rescue dog and he had heart worms when we adopted him, he came thru the operation to kill the worm and he has been thru so much we don’t want to feed him a dog food that is not good for him. He is 4 yrs old now and weighs 75 lbs, we love him so much, the best dog in every way. I love this web site but getting to be overwhelming finding the right/safe foods…

  • wrangler38

    I had switched my dogs to higher quality grain free foods and my American Bulldog who never had any issues with Nutro Ultra, started having skin problems with higher quality foods. I’m going back to Nutro to see if that helps them out.

  • Macey

    Thanks very much to all. Great input.

  • Pattyvaughn

    You are welcome!! And I know what you mean, we all have been there.

  • meander reserve

    Thank you very much; find this website very helpful as we stumble through finding the right food!

  • InkedMarie

    28% isn’t high.

  • Pattyvaughn

    For dogs that are prone to UTIs and/or develop crystals because of a UTI, increasing the moisture in the diet is important. Treat the UTI, add a quarter of an adult dose of cranberry powder to their food, and add water, canned food, or whole fresh foods like egg, sardine, lean meats, and kefir.

  • MeanderReserve

    Have had both my cocker pups on nutro puppy ultra for 9 months. Both developed urinary tract and crystals in there urine which my vet said could be related to the food. So we have switched (in the process) to Merricks Chicken and Sweet potatoe. Both are scratching and their coats do not seem as silky. After reading and living on food advisor website,I would value some food advice. Vets do not seem to be able to help.

  • mward1993

    Most of the Nutro products have pretty average protein levels.

  • Storm’s Mom

    In addition to what Pattyvaughn said (all of which I agree with), you may want to consider feeding him a grain-free food, as the “grainy” stool may be a sign he isn’t properly digesting the grains in Nutro.

  • Pattyvaughn

    No, that really is not a lot of protein. In fact, I wouldn’t feed it because I like my dogs to have higher protein. It is extremely doubtful that if your dog has been eating this food all along that it is now too much protein. Too much protein is only in relation to what the dog is used to digesting. If the dog is used to a certain level of protein, it is not too much. However if your dog isn’t used to it, it may take a while for it’s body to adjust to a higher protein level and that can result in constipation and diarrhea issues. My only suggestion would be to feed a rotational diet for gut health and/or possibly add a little something with some more fiber in it to the food.

  • Macey

    My 1-year old Malti-Poo, raised only on Nutro Ultra Puppy, has recently passed black, grainy stool. The vet and a friend said it may be from too much protein, which Nutro has alot of (including the adult/small breed food reviewed here). Any suggestions?

  • Bradley

    My Shepherd-mix, Sammy, made it to 16 y.o. on Nutro Natural Choice, and my 20-month old Cockapoo, Zoe, is doing exceptionally well on Nutro Ultra. I’ve tried Wellness and Blue, but given the availability and price of Nutro, I’ve been very happy with this brand.

  • Colleen

    Not all dogs can handle every brand of food. I had to try different brands to find what my GSD could stomach. Assuming that she isn’t ill I would try something else.
    Also I would always pick large breed foods for large breed dogs, they really do benefit from the extra protein. I’ve tried proplan (stopped feeding because of quality and digestive upset) and Blue Buffalo (far too rich for my pup’s system). Had Nurto not worked Wellness was my next option.
    Good luck!

  • Mary Hlav

    I had started using Purina products for my cocker spaniel and doxie after a downturn in my finances. Both started itching uncontrollably and my cocker girl started loosing her hair! I returned to Nutro Ultra and both doxie and cocker have stopped itching and my cocker girl’s coat is as glossy as ever. It’s true, you get what you pay for.

  • GremDude

    My 2 yo Lab and 3yo Aussie LOVE this food. They have been very health their entire life and have no problems. Seriously, my Aussie always used to pick at his food and now he gulps it down. Highly recommended.

  • daisy

    Our 7months old german shepeard mix poop is very soft
    We give her nutro ultra puppy.should we try giving her nutro ultra large breed puppy instead of regular nutro ultra puppy??

    She is 46 lbs 7 months oct 15.
    She was adopted July 15.
    Is she consider large breed puppy now??

    We want to get the right food for her
    And it feels like it’s not right food for her..

    She was ok with the first bag when she wad almost
    5 months. After purchasing the second bag she is 7 months this month. Her stool is very soft abd sometimes its ok.

    Are we doing something wrong buying her dry dog food from nutro.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Since German Shepherds can be large breed dogs, here is a thread discussing the issues with feeding large breed puppies.

    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/topic/large-and-giant-breed-puppy-nutrition/

  • Karen S

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself. My German
    Sheppard “Dutch” and Choc Lab “Brody” have spent their entire lives on Nutro food. Dutch was 14 when we lost him and Brody is now 15. Both of these dogs have been healthy and happy. We recently brought home another Sheppard and “Mya” is also thriving on this food. If anything changes with either I would switch foods but so far I’m not tampering with the luck we have had.
    Karen