Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2.5 stars.
The Hill’s Ideal Balance product line includes 5 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.
Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.
Use links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Puppy (4 stars) [G]
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Mature Adult (2 stars) [M]
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Adult Chicken (2.5 stars) [M]
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Large Breed Adult (2.5 stars) [M]
- Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Adult (2.5 stars) [M]
Hill’s Ideal Balance Small Breed Adult was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Hill's Ideal Balance Small Breed Adult
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, brown rice, brewers rice, cracked pearled barley, chicken meal, whole grain oats, chicken fat, pea protein, flaxseed, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, lactic acid, potassium chloride, iodized salt, choline chloride, green peas, apples, 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), cranberries, carrots, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, broccoli, mixed tocopherols for freshness, natural flavors, beta-carotene
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.7%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||22%||17%||53%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||19%||36%||45%|
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 brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fourth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fifth ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The sixth ingredient includes oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
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 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 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.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual 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 four notable exceptions…
First, we find 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.
Next, we note the use of 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.
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. Chelated minerals are usually associated with higher quality dog foods.
Hill’s Ideal Balance Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Ideal Balance 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 23% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 51% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 75%.
Below-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-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 a modest amount of meat.
However, with 36% 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 is a plant-based dry dog food using a modest amount of named meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2.5 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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A Final Word
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
Notes and Updates
10/04/2018 Last Update