Spring Naturals Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Spring Naturals Grain Free Dog Food earns the Advisor’s second highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Spring Naturals Grain Free product line includes five dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

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

  • Spring Naturals Grain Free Beef Dinner
  • Spring Naturals Grain Free Lamb Dinner
  • Spring Naturals Grain Free Turkey Dinner
  • Spring Naturals Grain Free Salmon Dinner
  • Spring Naturals Grain Free Chicken Dinner

Spring Naturals Grain Free Salmon Dinner was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Spring Naturals Grain Free Salmon Dinner

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

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

Ingredients: Salmon, chickpeas, peas, dried eggs, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dicalcium phosphate, sun-cured alfalfa, sweet potatoes, flaxseed, pea starch, natural flavors, salt, calcium carbonate, spinach, tomato pomace, choline chloride, potassium chloride, blueberries, cranberries, apricots, carrots, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, chicory root extract, dandelion greens, mixed tocopherols (preservative), rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.6%

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 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 item lists chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. Like peas, bean and lentils, the chickpea is a nutritious member of the fiber-rich legume (pulse) family of vegetables.

The third ingredient mentions peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, chickpeas and peas contain about 22-25% protein, a factor that must also be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient is dried egg, a dehydrated 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 fifth ingredient is sunflower oil. 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.

The sixth ingredient is dicalcium phosphate, likely used here as a dietary calcium supplement.

The seventh ingredient is sun-cured alfalfa. Although alfalfa is high in protein (18%) and fiber, it’s uncommon to see it used in a dog food. This hay-family ingredient is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

Yet alfalfa can still provide some healthy nutrients to a dog food.

The eighth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The ninth 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.

The tenth ingredient is pea starch, a paste-like carbohydrate extract probably used here as a gel-like binder for making kibble.

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, 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, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.

Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

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.

Spring Naturals Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Spring Naturals Grain Free Dog Food looks like an above average dry kibble.

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 18% and estimated carbohydrates of about 45%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 29% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 45% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 62%.

Near-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 peas and chickpeas, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Spring Naturals Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meats and dried eggs as its main sources 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 and Updates

11/26/2012 Original review
11/26/2012 Last Update

  • diarrhea

    My dog has a sensitive stomach and have diarrhea on my type of dry food. Finally find the lamaderm brand that works but unfortunately I cannot find any distributor here in Toronto anymore. Tried lamb spring naturals twice but both time it had diarrhea.

  • Mel

    I don’t like Spring Naturals because I feel that they do false marketing. A dog I walk was recently switched to this and I glanced at the bag. I’ll try to get the exact wording. They boast about excluding any meals (chicken, lamb, salmon meals, etc.) Okay, whatever. You don’t like meals, fine. But the way they word it is something along the lines of “not including meat meals allow us to exclude corn, wheat, and soy!”

    There is the issue I have with the brand. My dog has been on grain free for a few years now. Different brands too (it’s been a nutritional journey, I tell ya!) Many of those foods included lamb meal, salmon meal, or some other specified meat meal. NONE of the foods included corn, wheat, or soy. I mean, obviously! They were grain-free!

    Since Spring Naturals don’t use meat meals, I’m supposing that most of the protein does not come from meat. Maybe half of it does. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. What matters is how easily the protein can be digested by canines (and felines). As long as the dog is getting the protein, then okay.

    Anyhow. I think this is a decent food. I wouldn’t go out of my way to discourage anyone from using it. I just don’t like them because they put down all meat meals. I personally don’t see anything wrong with having meat meals as long as the type of meat is specified. If you exclude meat meals, it may be a good idea to add more sources of meat to compensate.

  • monkey

    How about a review for the canned foods? I’m picking up some tomorrow!

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    The score is due to it’s moderate protein content, part of which comes from high protein plant items which are in front of the dried egg ingredient. The salmon is actually somewhere lower on the list after its water is removed. So for me, the first two ingredients in this food are chickpeas and peas where I would rather feed a food with more meat concentrates first. You could ask your retailer to order the grain free Holistc Select as it would most likely come from the same distributor as the regular Holistic Select. The rice warning is on all the reviews.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Dr. Mike states that peas and chickpeas are about 25% protein. That’s 25% of the dry matter in a pea is protein, it doesn’t tell you how much is in the food.

    Never mind, I was typing as you were replying.

  • monkey

    That’s just what Spring Naturals is telling people, through email and retailers. They might be able to explain their math to you but most of the protein comes from meat and egg they say. I don’t even know who makes the food either, i just started hearing about it a couple weeks ago as they will be distributed in Southern California soon.

  • Pattyvaughn

    When you consider how much protein is in egg, it is possible.

  • JellyCat

    How did you determine that? The math doesn’t add up.

  • JellyCat

    Where 70-75% protein comes from animal protein?

  • monkey

    Around 25% of the protein comes from peas/chickpeas/sweet potato.

  • JellyCat

    Why saying that there’s virtually no meat is a stretch? Notice that first ingredient is salmon, not a salmon meal. Fresh salmon is mostly water and there is also some fat. After cooking into dry kibble you are left with very small amount of salmon. Actually there is not just some protein coming from peas, most of the protein is coming from peas.

  • monkey

    I heard 70-75% of the protein comes from an animal protein source. Just top the kibble with a 95% meat canned food to bump it up. Problem solved!

  • Pattyvaughn

    When you consider that the first ingredient is salmon which is approximately 80% water, then you should understand that there are more chickpeas and peas then there is salmon. Actually there is probably more dried eggs than salmon too, but at least that is a quality ingredient. And rating the food has very little to do with how your individual dog does on it, but how your dog does on it doesn’t make the food better than it is either.

  • shammy

    Jellycat, that’s a bit of a stretch saying there’s “virtually no meat.” Sure, there will be some protein coming from the peas but there IS in fact, meat content. Sheesh. This is one of the few foods I can rotate my bichon on. People need to stop worrying about how many stars foods get and take a look at what their dog is telling them.

  • JellyCat

    It is only 3.5 star because there is virtually no meat. Almost all protein derived from plants.

  • Pattyvaughn

    The protein level may be the only reason for 3.5 stars. The rice warning is on all the reviews, I believe. At least I’ve found it on some grain free reviews.

  • PugMom4

    I am confused – why is this only 3.5? I know a little lower in protein, but everything else appears fine – now I am not an expert so that is why I am asking that question, lol – I do not see anything that jumps out at me – except why does it give a warning about rice – many of the holistic foods fed to dogs that are still a 4 star, but not exactly grain free contain different rice – brown rice and so on…? Thank you so much – I ask about that because I just purchased a bag of Holistic Select (coupon) and two of our dogs do fine on it – I believe there is a little rice in this brand – I could not find a retailer that is carrying their grain free option yet.

  • annie

    calcium/ phorphous ratio is not labelled

  • Bob K

     Tiffanihallan – 3.5 stars is a decent food if your loved one is doing well, its competitively priced and readily available.  Half of the dog foods reviewed on this website probably are not available where you live as they are smaller companies with limited distribution.  3.5 is a whole lot better than 1 or 1.5 stars. 

  • Pattyvaughn

    It’s a pretty good food with pretty good ingredients.  One of my dogs can’t handle grain inclusive foods either, so I totally understand needing to go with what works.  I’m glad you found something that works.  There’s no reason you can’t feel good about feeding this to your dog.

  • Tiffanihallan

    Eh. Don’t pay that close of attention to the rating… this food has been a miracle for my bichon.  It’s one of the few dry foods I can feed her without her turning into a giant yeast infection mess. Ears, lips, feet all turn red and oozing and irritating and painful and smelly on so many other dog foods.  It’s been a blessing to find a dry food, so I can enjoy a little convenience and not have to cook for her every day. 

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi TwoDeafBoxers –

    There aren’t any horrible ingredients in this food (actually to me it looks on par with most of the 4 star foods so I’m really not sure why it only got 3.5…) so I wouldn’t feel bad about feeding it. I believe the reason it’s not a 5 star food is the protein content – 26% is a little low, most 5 star foods have at least 30% – but as long as your adding protein boosters like eggs it should be fine. You might also want to consider adding some more variety with your “toppers” – tinned sardines, lean meat left over from dinner, raw meat or a high protein canned or dehydrated food. Also, “meals” aren’t really a bad ingredient. In fact, it’d be nearly impossible to for a kibble to have a high protein content without containing at least one meal. Meat meals are basically meat with all the moisture removed and are 300% higher in protein than fresh meat. I do like when some fresh meat is included in a kibble but during processing the moisture has to be removed anyways (thus reducing the volume of the fresh meat) so I would want a meat meal too. With a food like this one, my only concern would be how much of that 26% protein is actually coming from the meat and how much is coming from the chickpeas?

  • TwoDeafBoxers

    Ugh I’m disappointed to see this midrange rating on this food! I had high hopes it would rank higher because it doesn’t use any “meal” products, shows what I know! My dogs both have severe allergies to most proteins and one also has IBD so I am always super careful when we have to switch foods. They are both doing really well on this food, with the addition of some scrambled eggs, so even though this doesn’t rate as high as I would like we’re going to stick with it. Thanks so much for reviewing it!