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Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free canned dog food earns the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.
The Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free product line includes two canned 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.
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Braised Salmon [M]
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Slow Cooked Chicken (2.5 stars) [M]
Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Braised Salmon was selected to represent both products in the line for this review.
Hill's Ideal Balance Grain Free Braised Salmon
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken broth, salmon, carrots, turkey, potatoes, green beans, potato starch, chicken fat, pea protein concentrate, egg white, sucrose, dried whey, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, carrageenan, dicalcium phosphate, choline chloride, apple pomace, iodized salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid (source of vitamin C), thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K), pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, pantothenic acid, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, folic acid), minerals (zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate), taurine
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.2%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||23%||20%||49%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||19%||40%||41%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken broth. Broths are nutritionally empty. But because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food they are a common finding in many canned products.
The second ingredient is salmon. Salmon is an oily marine and freshwater fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every dog to sustain life.
The third ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.
The fourth ingredient is turkey. Turkey is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of turkey”.2
Turkey is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The fifth ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The sixth ingredient includes green beans, a healthy vegetable notable for its vitamin, mineral and natural fiber content.
The seventh ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate used more for its thickening properties than its nutritional value.
The eighth 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 ninth 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.
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, sucrose is a common sweetener better known as table sugar. Sugar is always an unwelcome addition to any dog food. Because of its high glycemic index, it can unfavorably impact the blood glucose level of most animals soon after it’s eaten.
Next, 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.
In addition, carrageenan is a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there appears to be some recent controversy regarding its long term biological safety.
Next, the minerals listed here do not appear to be chelated. And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.
And lastly, this food contains menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.
Since vitamin K isn’t required by AAFCO in either of its dog food nutrient profiles, we question the use of this substance in any canine formulation.
Hill’s Ideal Balance
Grain Free Canned Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food looks like an average canned 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 26% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 48% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 70%.
Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea protein concentrate, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a modest amount of meat.
However, with 40% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 19% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free is a plant-based canned dog food using a modest amount of salmon or chicken as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2 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.
Hill’s Dog Food
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.
- Hill’s Prescription Diet and Science Diet Dog Food Recall Expands to Include 44 Varieties (3/20/2019)
- Hill’s Prescription Diet and Science Diet Dog Food Recall (1/31/2019)
- Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Market Withdrawal of November 2015 (11/29/2015)
- Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Recall June 2014 (6/3/2014)
To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free recipes and dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
10/05/2017 Last Update
- “Last Update” field at the end of this review reflects the last time we attempted to visit this product’s website. The current review itself was last updated 4/5/16 ↩
- Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor and based upon the official definition for chicken published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2008 Edition ↩