Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Adult (Dry)


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.

The Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free product line includes one dry dog food, a recipe claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

Hill's Ideal Balance Grain Free Chicken and Potato

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 24% | Fat = 20% | Carbs = 48%

Ingredients: Chicken, potatoes, yellow peas, pea protein, potato starch, chicken fat, chicken meal, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, lactic acid, flaxseed, iodized salt, choline chloride, potassium chloride, green peas, apples, cranberries, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, biotin, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), carrots, taurine, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), broccoli, mixed tocopherols for freshness, natural flavors, beta-carotene

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.5%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis24%20%NA
Dry Matter Basis24%20%48%
Calorie Weighted Basis20%40%40%
Protein = 20% | Fat = 40% | Carbs = 40%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains up to 73% 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 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 third ingredient includes yellow 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 actual meat content of this dog food.

The fourth 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 fifth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

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 lists chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The eighth 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, 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.

Next, we find additional peas in this recipe. Peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the 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, 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.

Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free looks like an 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 24%, a fat level of 20% and estimated carbohydrates of about 48%.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 83%.

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

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

However, with 40% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 20% from protein, this recipe may not be suitable for every animal.

Bottom line?

Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a modest amount of named meat as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 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
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.

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

Notes and Updates

09/12/2017 Last Update

  • anon101

    I am not familiar with this food. If it is a prescription food recommended by your vet, I would try it.

    However, if the food and treatment prescribed by your vet does not show positive results within a reasonable amount of time, consider seeing a veterinary dermatologist for testing/diagnosis/treatment of the “skin issues”

  • Ron Wnek

    We just started our dog on Hill’s Derm Defense due to skin issues. It isn’t reviewed in Dog Food Advisor…was wondering if anybody has experience with this dog food?

  • Michelle Holbert Carte

    My yorkies are highly allergic to grain and I have always had them on a 5 star dog food. My older yorkies kidneys was not tolerating the high protein from the higher brand dog food. My younger yorkie threw up on most dog food. After speaking with my vet Northview Animal Clinic in North Ridgeville they never recommend a high brand dog food. It causes a lot of GI problems in dogs. They said to stick to a 3 star dog food that is more balanced for organ function. My dogs did great on this dog food! They look great, no more hives, they put on some weight that was needed for my older yorkie. You can’t believe everything you read and high grade dog food is not always great for dogs. It could cause problems and I feel is a money maker.

  • InkedMarie

    most of us here wouldn’t choose either.

  • Adrien Izquierdo

    I’m stuck choosing between these two and the standard ideal balance lamb and rice formula. If you had to choose which would you go for?

  • APBTLuver

    Exactly!! Instead of making better quality food all they’ve done is maybe changed a few things that didn’t change the quality of their food. But they sure make them “LOOK” better if you just look at the outside of the bag…it’s sad.

  • Tiffani Hallan

    Just wanted to share my positive experience with the salmon/potato food from Ideal Balance. I’ve tried so many different foods for my PWD who has this one “itchy spot” on her shoulder/ribs area. She will sit there and just scratch and scratch and scratch… Fish oil didn’t help, switching foods around other expensive brands didn’t help… So I gave this one a go. I have to say it’s been 3 days that she’s been fully transitioned onto this food and NO more scratching! This is a big deal for us, as we’ve had to put a sweater on her (even in this heat) to keep her from ripping her skin open. She has pulled most of the hair out of her side by scratching. Keeping a close eye on her today and still no scratching. Her BMs are also much smaller than they were on some of the other holistic foods. No burping or gas or any tummy rumbling and she loves the taste. Thought I”d post our experience in case others are having itchy dog issues.

  • SP
  • SP
  • Mz M

    So I have my lil guy on prescription hills formula which I mix with his dry food which “WAS” Avoderm. However I recently switched to “Ideal Balance” food because the people at pet smart made me feel super guilty for having my lil guy on Avoderm because of all the recalls in the past and they no longer carry it. So I was like okay then trying the Ideal Balance cant hurt since his RX food and Ideal Balance are made by the same one. However I’m super disappointed with this food. I have a wire fox terrier and this breed is not generally good with grains so I always get grain free.
    The first couple weeks was fine then I he had an issue with vomiting. I thought nothing of it. After a month I started hearing a gurgling sound when he would sleep kind of like burping a lot in the morning and his stool was black. I thought nothing of it. Then he threw up. Day after day the the vomiting got worse and then the 3rd day he threw up blood.. I took him to the vet and he said he had an ulcer and put him on meds.I took him off food and just gave him a plain diet for a week and the vomiting stopped. I put em back on the food 3 days ago and the vomiting has returned. I didn’t want to blame this food but im not taking any chances I took the extra bag I had at home back. I don’t feel safe giving him this food anymore.

  • Osux

    That’s better than I eat- LOL! Definitely worth looking into.

  • Lara

    They still missed horribly on this product. I wouldn’t use it. There are better options for the same price or lower.

  • Lara

    I’d never be tempted by any of Science Diets products.

    Stick to something higher quality: look in the 4 or 5 star section.

  • Pattyvaughn

    They have jumped all over the gimmick, but completely ignored the whole point.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Actually, this is a pretty good example of how NOT to do a grain-free kibble!!!!

  • Glad to see see Hill’s going the grain free route in response to the criticism of their Science Diet Dog Food product line.

  • Amber

    I wanted to try this food, they have large breed and that is what I like for my lab. The ingredients sounded very good and Hills has been around awhile. I am on my 3rd bag and I have noticed my lab has started to gain weight, she’s hungry and her stools are large. I’m having to let her out more often.
    This bag is just about done, then I will be switching, just not for sure what I’m going to put her on.

  • Lynn

    Thanks Sandy I am sticking with Back to Basics. I don’t know why I keep reading about other foods when I know I am never going to switch, ever.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I’m glad your dogs are doing well on Hill’s and I hope they continue to. I wish you would consider just one thing though. No dog food is perfect and just like people need to eat a variety of foods to cover all their nutritional bases, so do dogs. Most dog food brands use the same vitamin/mineral premix in all of their different formulas, so the dog is getting the exact same level of the exact same vitamins and minerals day in and day out for life. If there are any excesses or deficiencies, they are for life.

    When a dog is switched from a food of this quality to a higher protein, higher fat food, a week is often not enough time for a transition. The dogs body has to learn to produce more of some enzymes and less of others and they don’t have the proper mix of probiotics in their body. The first time I transitioned to a higher quality food it took a month for my dogs to transition. Fortunately, after a couple transitions, my dogs became much easier to transition. Now I switch up their food daily.

    BTW, most of the good foods are lower fiber, not high fiber.

  • Storm’s Mom

    High protein, moderate fat and low carb. And, yes, it really is much better for your dog.

  • Crystal Morgan

    Then what would you have them eat high fat high protein diets those really aren’t any better for your pets!

  • Crystal Morgan

    Hill has changed their foods and has several new products out and my dogs eat it and are in excellent shape. The Ideal balance is great we tried higher end brands like blue and Nutro and natures recipe and thy all made my dogs sick. Sometimes high fat high fiber high protein is not always best and yes I mixed the food for seven days like I was supposed to. hills is the only food my dogs don’t get sick on. say what you want about it I am a hills customer for life!

  • Cyndi

    Holy Crap!! (literally!) Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! 🙂

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Deb –

    I feed raw but I do use kibble and dehdyrated foods as treats (kong filling) anyways I had ordered a trial sized bag of each Epigen formulas. One morning a few weeks ago I completely forgot to remove their raw from the freezer and was stuck with nothing to feed them for breakfast (amazingly it was the first time that every happened) – I remembered I had the trial-sized bags of Epigen so I just divided that up between my three dogs. My two older dogs had normal stools but my youngest (1 year old) has the most massive bowel movement I had ever seen on our walk. I kid you not I was just amazed/horrified at the same time (it was about the size of 5 of her normal bm’s) – I’d never seen anything like it! No idea why this is, but one of my dogs had the same experience.

  • Deb

    Confused – my Yorkshire Terrier has allergies and to help her health we moved from Science Diet to Wysong (variable meat sources). Her stools are HUGE compared to Science Diet and she is eating the same amount but seems hungrier with Wysong. What gives??

  • It only has 25% protein and some of that is from pea protein. Not enough for a higher star. And it is not necessary for kibble to have probiotics if you are supplementing.

  • Lynn

    Three stars baffles me with this one. I thought it would at least get 4. Question?? If I give my dogs lactose free probiotic yogurt and a probiotic capsule every night, is it really necessary that the kibble I feed have added probiotics?

  • Dog Mommie

    I was tempted – before reading this (shame on me!). My dog ate it, slowly, last night. This morning he tried it again and threw it up 10 minutes later.

    Back it goes…

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Do you know what her allergies are too? It’s difficult for anyone to make a recommendation without knowing what she’s allergic to. If you’re not sure what the ingredient is and you just suspect a food allergy I’d suggest trying a limited ingredient food with a novel protein – look for a food that has only one protein (that’s she’s never eaten before) and one starch source (preferably not a grain). Nature’s Variety Instinct, Zignature and Addiction have some good limited ingredients lines.

  • Bob

    What dog food do you recommend for a German Shepard with allergies, she also gets allergy shots

  • Lara Delarn

    Finally they have a grain free food and they still make a poor qauality food. I’d keep my pups away from this food even though it is better then Science Diets regular kibble.

  • Pattyvaughn

    We could only dream…

  • Guest

    That’s true. But I’m wondering if one of their head geniuses ever figures out that perhaps instead of investing allocated money on constant deceptive marketing and veterinary clinics incentives, and diverting that money to actually getting it even close to right, that they may regain consumer confidence, receive better ratings internet wide, better word of mouth etc.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Why would they want to? It costs more to get it right. People are already willing to pay outrageous prices for their cheap wrong. The people who won’t buy their garbage already don’t trust them at all and so wouldn’t buy their new garbage either.

  • Guest

    Hills finally came out with a grain free formula and still the “beast” can’t get it right. 🙁

  • Melanie

    I’ve experienced something similar when I worked at Petco. One dog had seizures which stopped when the owner switched to grain-free. That was probably the most intense one. Most are allergies where dogs are super itchy, have red eyes, and shed a lot. These all went away when they switched to a diet that excluded corn, wheat, soy, and ambiguous by-products.

    It felt good to make a difference though.

  • Christopher Garcia

    Whats sad is.. I own a pet store.. On almost a weekly basis help someone who has spent thousands of dollars at a vet for their dog with problems. We put them on a quality dog food and within weeks the dogs problems are almost gone, and 60 days later, healed. I lose respect for so many vets who just pump dogs full of steroids and never talk about nutrition.

  • Frank

    Chicken does not contain gluten. Gluten is from Grains, it is the sticky part of the grain. HELOOOO

  • All of them except for Ideal Balance has been updated. This one will be changing in the near future.

  • Margaret

    Hill’s Science reformulated all of their foods, when will you be updating your information?

  • How can this stuff get 3 stars?

  • Emily

     I loathe Hill’s.  I also detest Purina, Pedigree, Iam’s and most of the “big brand name” pet food companies.  I am currently a veterinary student and I am dedicated to enter into post graduate training in clinical nutrition.  I want to specialize in this field that is so often forgotten in veterinary medicine.  It is pretty sad how little general DVMs know about nutrition.  They have little to no formal training. It is NOT in the curriculum for a degree in veterinary medicine. I want to advocate and educate owners about the dire importance of nutrition when it comes to their companion animals.  What we feed our pets is truly a paramount factor when determining their future for degenerative diseases!

  • Kcc1

    Some chicken contains gluten. This comes up on my search as gluten free. Butter, a mastiff is on natural balance dog food now but I am looking for alternatives. She has a severe gluten allergy. Can someone confirm gluten free for me please.

  • Megan Lewis

    Please – email your summary to me too if you would.   I’m worried about my dog’s overall health.   I’ll read texasgrassfedbeef.com and beyondveg.com too.  My dog was dead lame from the time he was 6 mo. old.  Diagnosis:  I received a multitude of different “congenital” bone disorders, etc.  Very confusing. Surgery was needed; too late for surgery, etc.   He was put on steroids and told he would need them for life.  Diet was never mentioned until I moved to Wyoming when he was 2 and the vet said try Hills Perscription Diet, perhaps he’s allergic to something.  He’s not been lame since! except when we run out or he gets off it for some reason . . . But after reading your reviews, I’m worried about his overall health!  He’s a German Shephard, now 8+.  
    cc: Richard Darlington

  • IN human diets are most important factors so for animal diet is also more essential, here we can calculate the review of a dog food diet grain free dry which is generate by Hill’s Science Diet Ideal Balance Grain Free the dry food especially designed for dogs including proteins with many ingredients, I was really impressed with the review having every portion of diets and suitable for dogs.

  • Marie

    Would you expect anything less from Hill’s? They really drag their feet when it comes to improving or changing their products for customer demand…

  • Dog Food Ninja

    oh but I must mention that without dfa, the concept of evolutionary diet may have not ever occured to me anyways. Thanks mike! 🙂

  • Dog Food Ninja

    You crack me up richard. I’m sure sandy has been doing paleo longer than I have. But yeah, it’s such a simple dietary concept that it really is a head-slapper. The essays at texasgrassfedbeef.com are what first got me thinking about our evolutionary diet. Also, have a look at beyondveg.com. I’m actualy in the middle of writing my own easy to read summary of the paleo diet, the “why’s” and the “why not’s” to post on my facebook. I’ll email it to you when it’s done.

  • Hey Ninja

    Good to see you. I just posted something about the Paleo diet on the Before Grain thread giving you credit as a visionary. I am a true believer in it now. It’s such good common sense as to be almost blatantly obvious.

    Thanks for leading the Paleo way. sandy got me to read it finally (she bullied me into it) and I suppose she got the idea from you but it’s one very convincing nutritional argument that I can’t see any holes in. I’m totally on board the Paleo ship and headed or healthier harbors.

    How are those beautiful twins? I need some updated photos.

  • sandy

    It’s pea salad!

  • Dog Food Ninja

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHA! HEHEHEHAWHAW! *snort* hehe. He. Oh science diet, you crack me up. They resisted the grainfree food as long as possible and THIS is what they come up with? Ohh boy.