Pure Balance Grain Free (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★☆

Pure Balance Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

  • Pure Balance Wild and Free Bison and Pea Recipe (4.5 stars)
  • Pure Balance Grain Free Salmon and Pea Recipe (3.5 stars)

The Pure Balance Grain Free product line includes one dry dog food, claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

Pure Balance Grain Free Salmon and Pea Recipe

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 27% | Fat = 17% | Carbs = 49%

Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, dried ground peas, tapioca, pea protein, fish meal, dried plain beet pulp, poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried carrots, sunflower oil, natural flavor, whole potato, calcium carbonate, salt, flaxseed, potassium chloride, zinc proteinate, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, choline chloride, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, l-carnitine, biotin, sodium selenite, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, calcium iodate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.6%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis24%15%NA
Dry Matter Basis27%17%49%
Calorie Weighted Basis23%35%42%

The first ingredient in this dog food is salmon. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, raw salmon 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 salmon meal. Because it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself.

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.

The third ingredient is dried peas. Dried peas are a good source of carbohydrates. Plus they’re naturally rich in dietary fiber.

However, dried peas contain about 27% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.

The fifth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

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 meat content of this dog food.

The sixth ingredient is fish meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

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

The seventh 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 eighth ingredient is poultry fat. Poultry fat is obtained from rendering, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Poultry fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.

However, poultry fat is a relatively generic ingredient and can be considered lower in quality than a similar item from a named source animal (like chicken fat).

The ninth ingredient is dried carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

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, 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, 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.

In addition, 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.

Pure Balance Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Pure Balance Grain Free 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 27%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 49%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 30% and a mean fat level of 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 47% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 51%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the dried peas, pea protein and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing only a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Pure Balance Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of salmon and salmon meal as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly 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.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

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

10/29/2013 Original review
04/03/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. Per Pure Balance Rep via DFA comment, 10/25/2013
  • Johnny

    Walmart wouldn’t be the one responsible for the recall, right? It would be the manufacturer, Ainsworth, who has never had a recall.

  • Shawna

    Hi again Kathleen — hope you don’t mind me butting in on this conversation.

    You mention chicken as being a problem food for many. I think that the arsenic and grains may be a part of the reason but another factor is a protein in chicken (and many other foods) that is called a lectin. Lectins are sticky and for some, that are sensitive to a particular lectin, they can be very damaging to that person/animal. The damage can be in the gut, such as IBD, colitis, inflammation etc. Lectins can also cause more serious damage such as autoimmune diseases.

    I react to the lectins in dairy products. My symptoms are anything from joint pain to itchy scalp to sinus headaches and many more. My grandson reacts to the lectins in wheat, barley, rye and spelt (otherwise known as gluten). His symptoms are severe diarrhea, behavioral issues, cold extremities and more. My husband reacts to pinto beans by becoming violently ill – major vomiting and diarrhea. My Pomeranian gets ulcerative colitis from the lectins in chicken.

    Here’s a really good, in my opinion, and easy to read article on lectins and their damaging affects. The title of the article is “Lectins — A Little Known Trouble Maker” http://www.institutefornaturalhealing.com/2009/07/lectins-a-little-known-trouble-maker/

  • Shawna

    Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for the very nice comment above!! :)

    The quality of the eggs plays a huge role in whether salmonella would be a big concern or not. Eggs that have been raised naturally (versus factory farms) have been safely eaten raw by man and beast for centuries. In fact in many other parts of the world, eggs are of such better quality that they aren’t even stored in the fridge. Organic, free range fed chickens produce much healthier eggs than factory farmed eggs. The price isn’t much higher and the quality definitely justifies the increased price.

    In my comment I mentioned raw eggs and “raw goat” milk in helping the liver. These two foods have protein precursors to making an antioxidant in the body called glutathione. Glutathione is the “master antioxidant” of the body and helps the liver keep the body clean. ANY processing (such as whipping/cooking the eggs or pasteurizing the milk) damages that protein structure. Goat’s milk also has smaller fat molecules making it much easier and healthier to digest. The proteins in goat milk are also usually less allergenic then cow’s milk.

    For what it’s worth, you are much better going with full fat foods as long as the fats are quality sources. Science is finally coming to the conclusion that quality fats have been demonized and are not the problem they were once thought to be. LOTS of nutritionists, doctors and medical writers are discussing this myth of fat being bad for us. The same goes for our dogs.

    One of my current favorite sources of info on the fat myth is human Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter. He has articles discussing the current low fat craze as a contributing factor to diseases such as alzheimer’s later in life. Our brains, and our dogs’ brains, NEED good amounts of quality fat. http://www.drperlmutter.com/about/grain-brain-by-david-perlmutter/

    Coconut oil doesn’t feed yeast at all. It actually destroys yeast. Yeast infections can be caused by two different kinds of yeast – candida is the one that is in the mucous membranes and colon. Two of the three types of fatty acids in coconut oil are lauric acid and capric acid. The below research showed a positive affect from these two fatty acids, lauric and capric, against candida yeast. “In summary, the results show that both capric and lauric acids are active in killing C. albicans
    and may therefore be useful for treatment of infections caused by that
    pathogen or others that infect the skin and mucosa, possibly in
    conjunction with antibiotic therapy over a longer period of time.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC90807/

    Here’s another paper that discusses the whole oil (coconut) “Coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species.” http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2006.1209 You most certainly SHOULD be using organic extra virgin coconut oil to fight yeast infections. :)

    Sorry this was so long.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    No, I haven’t checked the store. I’ll keep it in mind next time I’m there. Thanks!

  • LabsRawesome

    That is really weird, I can’t imagine why Walmarts in your area wouldn’t stock Pure Balance. Have you ever looked in the store for it? Sometimes websites lie. lol. :)

  • LabsRawesome

    No, Pure Balance has never been recalled. It is made by Ainsworth.

  • DogFoodie

    Removing chicken only helps if your dog is intolerant of chicken. I have a dog with a relatively lengthy list of foods intolerances, but the only animal protein in that list is fish. He’s eating chicken with no problem currently.

  • Kathleen Lee

    Has this food ever been recalled? I wonder if Walmart would do the right thing and recall it if there was a problem? I just do not trust them anymore……

  • Kathleen Lee

    I’ve just recently finally found a good dog food with no potatoes or chicken and is grain free. Outsource from Canada and New Zealand only. Zignature.im in the process of switching from Merrick to Zignature now. Hoping for good results…

  • Kathleen Lee

    I disagree with your vet. I think you are correct. The body converts starch to glucose which feeds yeast which causes massive itching. My poor Yorkies have been suffering for years…..chronic ear infections yeast etc. I worked with a Doctor who was a vet went back to school to become MD. He told me that vets are taught little to NOTHING about nutrition in school. I’ve learned a lot from him…..but not nutrition. I’ve actually taught him in this area!

  • Kathleen Lee

    I was just gonna suggest this. I’m in the process of switching mine from Merrick to Zignature. I’ve discovered in my research of the past year that chicken can also cause skin or allergy issues with dogs…..chickens eat grain and are also fed arsenic. So far my dogs are eating the 2 mixed. I got the lamb…..I chose it cause it is chicken and potato free.

  • Kathleen Lee

    Raw eggs are safe? I fear samanella. …I scramble eggs for my 5 occasionally. Try to give them Salmon once a week. No fat plain yogart several times a week and all kinds of veggies. Was using coconut oil but read that feeds yeast which 3 of mine have chronic problems with….I’ve never given any of mine milk cottage cheese once in a while now as they love it.

  • Kathleen Lee

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I just learned so much from your post….love learning!!

  • Kathleen Lee

    My sister has 2 of these a male and female….yes she breeds them but they are well cared for loved and live in her house sleep in her bed. No puppy mill. She calls them party Yorkies? They are beautiful dogs……yours is stunning…

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Lol. I’m not a fan of how they treat their employees, which is why I don’t shop their much. However, I think it is a good option for people that are on limited budgets, for dog food or anything else.

  • GSDsForever

    My (very limited recollection) is that you can. But I could be wrong.

    Sorry I am not more helpful.

    I like to say that I am allergic to Walmart. (That’s what I told my little nephew on why we couldn’t go there. LOL.) But this is how it works at Target.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Yeah, there’s a Walmart. I’m not really a huge Walmart fan either, but I will go there once and a while. I know you can order online for pickup, but I’m not sure if you can do it if the store doesn’t normally carry the item.

  • GSDsForever

    I am really not a Walmart shopper, but isn’t there a way to order this from Walmart online for in store pick up near you?

    I’m assuming of course that you have a Walmart somewhere near you (one that just doesn’t have it) . . .

  • Dog_Obsessed

    I would totally feed this, but when I search on the Walmart website it tells me that it isn’t available within 50 miles of me. :( BTW, your pups are adorable! :)

  • LabsRawesome

    I rotate foods. Pure Balance Grain Free is one of the kibbles I use. All 3 of mine eat this with gusto, and always have small firm stools.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    My 2 babies seem to be experiencing more thirst since switching to PB.

    It didn’t register that it could be the food because it’s winter and the furnace is going non-stop so I figured it was the dry air in the house. But I was on another website with PB reviews, and a lady mentioned excessive thirst in her comments as well, so the old bell in my head went DING DING DING!

    Reading the ingredients above, I noticed the Sodium. Is there an excessive amount?

    Has anyone else’s dogs been experiencing this thirst since they started on PB?

  • Crazy4cats

    Super cute! Have fun with your new addition!

  • Shawna

    Audrey got 1/8 tsp of SP Canine Renal Support five days per week with one meal since diagnosis. It is the one supplement I made sure I always had on hand. I gave her SP Canine Hepatic Support off and on when I felt her liver was stressed (like when we were dealing with her food allergy). I also liked raw eggs and raw goats milk for liver support.

  • http://theuglypugglyboutique.com/ sandy

    Which Standard Process formulas were you using and how much?

  • http://theuglypugglyboutique.com/ sandy

    My oldest one right now is 15 yrs and 9 mos. April is his rescue month so that’s what we’re using as his birthdate. He could already be 16, who knows.

  • http://theuglypugglyboutique.com/ sandy

    Check out the article “How We Rate Dog Food” in the Library link at the top of the page or just type it in the search box or use the link in the “A Final Word” section in each review. The link actually just says “our ratings”.

  • Shawna

    Oh My Goodness!!! How ADORABLE!!

    Smaller and older dogs needing lower protein is actually a myth. In fact, they now know that older dogs actually need more protein as they are less efficient at digesting their meals. There is TONS of reliable information on this all over the net but here’s a few sources.

    From Purdue University PowerPoint presentation titled “Geriatric Nutrition of Companion Animals”. The below is taken from page 4.
    “Senior canine research – 40 years
    –Age-related reduction in protein turnover
    –Older dogs need more protein than young adults (50% more!)” http://www.ansc.purdue.edu/swineclass/PDF/Companion%20Animal%20Nutrition_2.pdf

    Older dogs need as much as “50%” more protein then their younger adult counterparts.

    In article written by “By T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM” on PetMD website it states “”But too much protein is bad, right?” you ask. Do your own research and poll half a dozen nutrition specialists (not the guy who runs the local pet shop) and here is what you will find: There is no general agreement among expert nutritionists regarding what constitutes “too much” protein in the dog’s diet. Research shows that dogs have a high capacity for digesting and utilizing diets containing more than thirty percent protein on a dry weight basis. (Dry weight basis means the food with no moisture present. Dry dog food in a bag usually has 10 percent moisture and canned food has about 74 percent moisture.) If left to catch and consume prey to survive, as wild canines do every day, dogs’ diets would be even higher in protein than what is generally available commercially……

    So what does that mean for the older dog? It means that you should not restrict feeding high quality protein to older dogs just because they are older. There is even some valid research that indicates older dogs may need a higher percentage of protein in their diets than they required during middle age. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us because dogs evolved through the ages as meat eaters. The grain-based diets for dogs did not even exist until seventy years ago when we humans demanded the convenience, simplicity and economy of dog food in a bag.” These two quotes were taken from page two of the linked article. http://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_focusing_on_protein_in_the_diet

    I currently have seven toy breed dogs. I just lost my heart dog two weeks ago tomorrow to kidney disease. She had the disease from birth and was officially diagnosed at one year of age (her vet gave her a year to live). She lived eight and a half years eating a HIGH protein raw diet — protein amounts ranged from 45 to 54%. They have known for 20 years that protein does not damage the kidneys and only needs to be limited when symptoms, like vomiting, start to appear. The remainder of my seven dogs are between the ages of 19 years and 8 years and eat the same 45 to 54% protein diet. The 19 year old is a 4 pound Chihuahua. Toy breed dogs have the same digestive tract and organs as larger dogs. They perform the same way. The only difference is they are smaller — to compensate for their smaller size they simply eat less food but their nutrient requirements are no different.

  • 89′ Alumni

    I have a biewer terrier, a very rare breed from Germany, from which the AKC has just accepted the breed in April of 2014. First of all, with older dogs, as well as the smaller breeds, you have to watch protein content. Anything over 28% is considered to much and can cause liver & general health issues. My dog is on another brand of food which is “not” grain-free but a lamb & rice formula and has done ok. On the other hand, I am expecting to add a new addition to the family soon. Another biewer that is a retired stud from down south. Being on a grain-free diet, I am considering switching them both.
    Only thing is that I am torn. The Bison & Pea has 30% protein but is rated 4.5 stars whereas the Salmon & Pea has protein in the mid 20% but is only rated 3.5 stars. Howcome such a difference in ratings?

  • Debbie

    Started my two dogs on Pure Balance Grain Free Salmon and Pea Recipe, as Walmart was out of any other flavor. Both loved it at first then my Bluetick Coonhound refused to eat it. However still used it for my Border Collie mix. Not only did she love it, I can use it for treats and she finally gained some weight :) In my area Walmart sold this for $32.88 for 24lbs and has higher calories than the Chicken & Brown Rice.

  • Susan

    He could be allergic to the protein in the Bison, well that’s what vet from Hills told me when I said my dog starts to scratch & have diarrhea when he eats potatoes, I thought it was the starch in the potatoes, he said it would be the protein in the potatoes, maybe he’s right, I don’t know, I just stop feeding the potatoes… he said all living things have proteins…..

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    My dogs like the Salmon/Pea much better than the Bison formula.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    I mix the Bison with a bit of warm water. Makes it easier for small dogs to eat.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    You find Pure Balance to be expensive? True it is a bit higher than say Purina dog chow or Pedigree, but it’s also better for them. As it’s sold only at Walmart, watch their sales papers for roll backs. Or do as I do and order from their website. Sometimes the price is a little less online.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    My dogs are the same way, but with the Salmon & Pea formula. They also like the lamb pate’ in the tub.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    I contacted Ainsworth. They told me that PB is a private label,
    manufactured by them for Walmart, therefor they do not list it on their

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    I contacted them about this, and they told me that PB is a private label manufactured by them for Walmart, therefor they do not list it on their website.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    My dogs LOVE the Salmon & Pea, especially when the kibble is mixed with a bit of warm water. They’re iffy with the Bison recipe.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    My dogs also have an allergy to grains, and love this Salmon & Pea recipe. However one of my dogs vomits when fed the Bison recipe. So we’re staying with the Salmon & Peas for now.

  • http://peggygurney.com/ Peggy Gurney

    The Bison is also grain free.

  • Teresa Gipson

    My dog has an allergy to grains. He is ok with the Salmon.. although he doesn’t care for the taste. But when we fed him the Bison, which he loves, he doesn’t stop itching. I have been trying to find out what the different ingredients are between the 2.

  • India

    Thank you so much!

  • Debbie

    356 kcal/cup

  • Debbie

    The PetsMart near me has Authority for $23.99 for 15lbs but got Pure Balance Salmon and Pea for $33/ 24lbs OR the Chicken & Rice $32/ 30lbs…so seems WalMart wins here in WA state.

  • Debbie

    356 kcal/cup

  • India

    How many calories does the salmon and pea have??

  • Lisa

    Thanks Sandy

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Both the recipes listed in this review are grain free.

  • Marian Murdoch

    Our dog did the same with the salmon and pea. Fine at first, then stopped eating it altogether.

  • Bobby dog
  • Jenn66

    Make sure you make extra copies of the 4$ Rachel ray coupons because you can only print twice from the same computer ;) luckily the library helps with having more computers… Oh and this is is my first bag of the Pure Balance. We have a new Bugg puppy (half Boston half pug) and a rescue female breeder Boston we got a few months ago and is 5. We have been giving them pedigree while researching better dog foods so this is the 1st one we are trying and will be gradually mixing this in which their existing food. With our previous Boston which we lost over the summer, he was fed Blue Buffalo but was way too eexpensive!

  • Bobby dog

    You would have to contact Wal-Mart customer service or Ainsworth for an answer.

  • Laurie


  • Teri

    My Jack Russell was having MAJOR skin irritaions so after several rounds of sterioids i deciede to try grain free, It was GREAT, dog likes the salmon and bison, hubby picked up the lamb and rice formula by mistake and dog ate it for the first 3 days , now refuses it al all, even with toppers. so will be going to store today for more bison one. Can i buy bigger bag and freeze it?