By Nature Active Defense Balanced Diet (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★☆

By Nature Active Defense Balanced Diet Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The By Nature Active Defense Balanced Diet product line includes four dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

  • By Nature Balanced Diet Turkey, Green Peas and Herring [A]
  • By Nature Balanced Diet Pork and Sweet Potato (3.5 stars) [A]
  • By Nature Balanced Diet Lamb, Lentils and Duck (3.5 stars) [A]
  • By Nature Balanced Diet Ocean Whitefish, Green Peas and Herring (4.5 stars) [A]

By Nature Balanced Diet Turkey, Green Peas and Herring was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

By Nature Balanced Diet Turkey, Green Peas and Herring

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 18% | Carbs = 45%

Ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal, steel-cut oats, green peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), deboned herring, turkey meal, tapioca, dried whole eggs, sun-cured alfalfa meal, natural chicken flavor, chicken liver, salmon oil (source of DHA), coconut oil, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, spinach, broccoli, apples, pears, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, juniper berry extract, ginger, fennel, green tea extract, peppermint leaf, turmeric, salt, lecithin, potassium chloride, chicory root extract, vitamins [vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid], minerals [zinc oxide, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, ferrous sulfate, copper proteinate, copper sulfate, manganese proteinate, manganese oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], dl-methionine, l-lysine, yeast extract, choline chloride, glucosamine hydrochloride, taurine, rosemary extract, chondroitin sulfate, l-carnitine, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus helveticus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium longum fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis26%16%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%18%45%
Calorie Weighted Basis25%37%39%
Protein = 25% | Fat = 37% | Carbs = 39%

The first ingredient in this dog food is turkey. Although it is a quality item, raw turkey 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 includes oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The fourth ingredient includes 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.

The fifth ingredient lists lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, lentils contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The sixth 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 seventh 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 eighth ingredient is herring. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, raw fish 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 ninth ingredient is turkey meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

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, although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

Next, we find coconut oil, a natural oil rich in medium-chain fatty acids.

Medium-chain triglycerides have been shown to improve cognitive function in older dogs.1

Because of its proven safety2 as well as its potential to help in the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and chronic skin disorders, MCT can be considered a positive addition to this recipe.

In addition, 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 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.

By Nature Active Defense
Balanced Diet Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, By Nature Balanced Diet 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 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 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 46% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, lentils and alfalfa meal in this recipe and the pea protein and potato protein contained in other recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

By Nature Active Defense Balanced Diet is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meals 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 and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

By Nature Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Advisor’s recall notification list.

Dog Food Coupons
and Discounts

Readers are invited to check for coupons and discounts shared by others in our Dog Food Coupons Forum.

Or click the buying tip below. Please be advised we receive a fee for referrals made to the following online store.

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 entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the specific data a company chooses to share.

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.

We rely on tips from readers. To report a product change or request an update of any review, please contact us using this form.

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.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

03/03/2017 Last Update

  1. Pan Y et al, Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs, British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 12, June 2010, pp 1746-1754
  2. Matulka RA et al, Lack of toxicity by medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in canines during a 90-day feeding study,Food Chem Toxicol, Jan 2009, 47(1) 35-9.
  • Ya Fei Iona Chen

    same happened dog loves it only for the very first time i gave it to her.try instinct ultimate,or spring nature meal protein

  • Tracey South

    my dog was given a sample container of it….he loved it for one day then refused to eat it. that is about all I can say , other than I wondered about the main ingredients being “meal” proteins.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Many of us have been dealing with food intolerances for a while now, so if you need more ideas, just ask.

  • Ash

    Thanks that is a good idea, I will do that.

  • Pattyvaughn

    That means that there is an ingredient in the food that she is intolerant of, and you should keep that ingredient list, so that if this ever happens again on a different food, you can try to work out what she can not have. Also compare it to the ingredient lists of foods she does well on so you get an idea of what is not a problem for her.

  • Ash

    The first night I fed By Nature to my dog she developed a major skin irritation on her back within an hour or two of eating the food. She bit and licked it so much it became a ‘hot spot’ and luckily calmed down within a day. Before that she had never had a hot spot or any skin problem to speak of. I figured it had to be the food. She seemed itchy for the remainder of the bag and I switched her when it ran out.

  • Rumer

    Try Acana or Fromm food. The new Orijen formula was to rich for my dogs also… but i mix Acana (a division of Champions foods that produce Orijen same company) & Fromm.

  • jen

    I got the Active dog formula. I think the chicory root powder in this caused extreme gas in my dog. I experienced this with Fiber one bars that also contain chicory root extract.

  • Pingback: Dog food review By Nature : No corn, no wheat, no soy | Kirbysdawgblog()

  • Pingback: Review: By Nature grain-free dog food | Doggerel()

  • Crazy4cats

    Thanks for your reply. I think I am going to try it too. It doesn’t appear that By Nature has had many recalls, but haven’t been researching pet food for that long. Hope it continues to work for your dog.

  • Brenda

    I just bought a bag, life got in the way and I totally ran out of current food I am using Canidie. I have been looking for a good grain free food that I can afford and this is it! I put a 1/4 cup down for her and she ate it right up and was looking for more. I placed some on her puzzle toy she has to work to get and again she loved it! She didn’t eat Canide like this. I hope it works out, But the ingredients look very good I hope you review it.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Someone did mention it on another thread about 4 days ago.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi All-
    I think someone else mentioned this in the last week or so, but By Nature also carries a grain free chicken formula that is not included in the ratings. Has anyone tried it? I do not hear this brand mentioned on this website much. It seems like a very reasonably priced brand. The grain free’s guaranteed analysis is: 37% protein, 20% fat, 3% fiber. First three ingredients are: chicken meal, potato meal, and chicken fat. It has 465 calories per cup. It costs about $50 for a 30 lb bag at my local pet store. Any opinions? I’m thinking about mixing it in with my current feed to up their protein intake at a cheaper than most price. Thanks.

  • Tobias C

    I agree. However pursuit is not for puppies. Kinesis ALS is though.

    Also Ive had pretty good results with Fromm Puppy Gold. Note that it is for All life stages even though it says “puppy” in the front.

  • Tobias C

    euphemism for China. If it was Japan they would happily say Japan. Reminds me of an ebay seller who listed his item as made in “the orient…”

  • I have multiple bags of dry kibble, By Nature, the small bags…all contaminated with mold. 9/12/2013. Not a storage issue, as I have other dated bags that are fine.





  • InkedMarie

    First, have you looked at Dr. Tim’s pet food? Some of the bags come in 44 lbs. Second, brittanys? !! We have a 2.5 yr old brittany, little gal, she weighed 29.8 pounds a couple weeks ago at her checkup. She is eating Dr. Tim’s Pursuit and doing very well.

  • Polobrit

    I am a breeder and have had terrible problems with by Nature Puppy.  It seems too rich.  I caused sloppy smelly stools in two litters of pups.  I then switched them to Active but problem persists with the young dogs.  Adults are doing OK but still high volume of stool and sometimes loose.  Contacted by Nature through Customer Service and have not heard from anyone else.  They have discontinued their 33 lb Puppy and they feel that people do not feed puppy very long so there is less call for it.  WRONG – breeders are not buying or recommending it to their puppy customers, so they are not selling it.  Something is not right with the Puppy formula to cause problems with undigested food, puppies were not thriving, poor body mass even eating stools.  YUK!  The loose stools usually mean we are over feeding, which can become an ongoing exercise in changing the food amounts to keep proper growth and proper stools.  I am gong to take all my puppies, 2 six months and 2 four months off of the by Nature all together.  It has been a nightmare.  I can’t house train or crate train the poor things.  Potty every 3-4 hours.  3-4 loose stools every 12 hours.  I am not going to recommend the by Nature for puppies or juveniles.  The adults seem to be OK with it, but will probably switch all 10 of my Brittanys away to another food after changing from Purina Pro Plan about 7 months ago.  I’d be interested to hear how any o you other breeders have found this food for your litters.  Thanks.

  • Pingback: All Different Dog Food Brands & Types | My Blog()

  • Kallistapwc

    Almost all the vitamin C is now produced in China…probably a lot of other minerals, too.  They are just saying “Asia”.

  • Hmmm. “Asia”. That’s kinda vague…

  • Brian

    Here is an e-mail I received from By Nature regarding your questions (I asked the same thing):
    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for asking ByNature!
    Our ingredients (especially the meats) are sourced here in the USA; other ingredients are sourced in CANADA. Two exceptions are: Lamb (from New Zealand) and vitamins and minerals (from Asia). We process in plants in New York; we don’t have a cannery, so have our cans processed in a new plant in South Dakota and one in CANADA-and we follow all prescribed safety and quality prescribed by AAFCO.


  • Judy

    Where is By Nature manufactured. And, are any of the ingredients from China?

  • A

    I can not find by Nature (salmon) anywhere either. But I just found out that does have by Nature brand dog food. That’s what I am going to do!

  • Hi Nan… Unfortunately, without knowing precisely how much of a particular ingredient (like selenium yeast) is actually present, we’re only guessing at the reason they’ve also included sodium selenite.

  • Nan

    Hi Mike:
    My dogs use to eat By Nature but with the dog recall I stopped and started them on Orijen. My lab stopped having skin problems as soon as I stopped By Nature. Everything was fine until the new Orijen came out. Now my lab is sick everyday, he can’t tolerate Orijens new formula. So here I am trying to find a food he likes. I was ready to pick up By nature again because I was so happy to see selenium yeast in their dry food but also saw sodium selenite. That stopped me from getting it. My question is if they have selenium yeast why do they need to include the sodium selenite? The girl at the pet store said when they add selenium yeast than there isn’t as much sodium selenite. Is this true and why do they have to put both in their dry and can food. Also some of their can foods have sodium selenite and some flavors don’t. The girl at the store told me it’s because some of their cans have veggies and some of their can foods don’t. What is your thoughts on this?

  • Melissa


    Its made by Blue Seal, so if you have any Blue Seal feed stores, they should carry it-contact Blue Seal if you like the food and see if they have a local outlet for it. Our Petsmarts in NY have just stopped carrying it as well, but it can be found within a 30 min drive at the main store.

  • Krista

    We’ve been feeding our little dog this food since we adopted her. Our local PetSmart is not carrying the food anymore, and no other pet stores in the area do. We had talked about switching her food to one that is grain free, so we may do that. However, we are looking for something similar in quality and price.

    Any suggestions?

  • Hi Alex… That is an interesting question. And I’ll try to answer it as best I can. Now, first, since I’m not a veterinarian, it would be misleading for me to assure you chicken fat is OK for any dog allergic to chicken.

    However, if you’ll allow me a “label reader’s license” to rationalize here… allergies are usually related to the protein “fingerprint” (allergen) of an ingredient. If a fat is purely fat and free of any protein, it seems unlikely to me chicken fat would cause a problem for a dog allergic to chicken. Hope this helps.

  • Alex

    If a dog is allergic to chicken is it ok to give him a food that contains chicken fat?

  • Hi Kathy… To my knowledge, there are no official FDA or AAFCO nutritional guidelines relating to requirements of a company marketing a particular dog food for large breed dogs. However, we’ve noticed a number of manufacturers claim glucosamine and chondroitin are “naturally” present in dog foods just because they contain chicken. Imagine that!

  • kathy

    Dear Mike,

    I read the ingredients for By Nature Large Breed formula, and it doesn’t contain glucosimine. How can it be considered a large breed formula?

  • Annonymous


    Select PetSmart stores will continue to carry By Nature past August 2010. Certain stores are eliminating it to make room for Wellness, while other stores will be condensing Natures Recipe and Nutro Ultra. Check with your local store for a list of stores that will continue to offer By Nature.

  • Hi Robin… Try going to the By Nature website and simply searching for a store using your zip code.

  • robin bobrowicz

    Where can you purchase by nature dog food in Arizona, our petsmarts starting in August 2010 will not be selling it anymore.