Natural Balance Alpha Dog (Dry)


Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Product May Have Been Discontinued
See the Following Related Review
Natural Balance Wild Pursuit (Dry)

Natural Balance Alpha Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Natural Balance Alpha Dog product line includes three 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.

  • Alpha Dog Chicken, Turkey Meal and Duck
  • Alpha Dog Lamb, Chicken Meal and Rabbit
  • Alpha Dog Trout, Salmon Meal and Whitefish

Natural Balance Alpha Dog Chicken, Turkey Meal and Duck was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Natural Balance Alpha Dog Chicken, Turkey Meal and Duck

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 13% | Carbs = 50%

Ingredients: Chicken, potatoes, chicken meal, garbanzo beans, peas, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, natural flavor, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), duck, alfalfa meal, potato starch, beet pulp, dried egg, salmon oil, vegetable pomace (carrot, celery, beet, parsley, lettuce, watercress, spinach), calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, cranberries, blueberries, apples, zucchini, dried kelp, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A acetate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid), inulin, minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganous sulfate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate), l-carnitine, ascorbic acid (source of vitamin C), Yucca schidigera extract, dl-methionine, l-lysine, iron amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate, mixed tocopherols and citric acid (preservatives)

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis26%12%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%13%50%
Calorie Weighted Basis26%28%46%
Protein = 26% | Fat = 28% | Carbs = 46%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken 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 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 is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

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

Garbanzos contain about 22% protein, something which must be considered when evaluating the total protein reported in this food.

The fifth ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (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 sixth ingredient is turkey meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The seventh 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.

After the natural flavor, we find 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 duck. Although it is a quality item, raw duck 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.

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 six 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, this recipe includes 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.

In addition, salmon oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.

Next, vegetable pomace is the solid by-product of vegetables after pressing for juice or oil. This item contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit.

Vegetable pomace can be a controversial ingredient. Some praise pomace for its high fiber, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.

Just the same, there’s probably not enough vegetable pomace here to make much of a difference.

We also like to note the inclusion of inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and typically sourced from chicory root.

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.

Natural Balance Alpha Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Alpha 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 29%, a fat level of 13% and estimated carbohydrates of about 50%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 29% and a mean fat level of 13%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the garbanzo beans, peas and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Alpha Dog is a grain-free plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of various named species 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.

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.

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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.

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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

06/24/2015 Last Update

  • Heather

    Bummer, I’ve been giving my senior mini poodle the alpha with rabbit, chicken and lamb… It’s been the perfect dog food. We were on Nutro Ultra… Then she almost died and required major surgery after her liver failed (she was one of hundreds who had this in common.) I picked this brand because it was a wholesome and small-company. I can’t believe this company has been bought out by a multinational… What can others recommend that is similar in nutrition and wholesomeness?

  • aquariangt

    Looks like it upon a search. Makes little difference though. All the non pet food companies are the same in my book

  • Crazy4dogs

    Didn’t Smuckers just buy Natural Balance from Del Monte?

  • Crazy4dogs

    I hate when companies do that. 🙁

  • Crazy4dogs

    I’ve never used anything NB. I’m surprised by this one. Kinda looks like they’re copying Merrick, which copied NV Instinct.

  • aquariangt

    Coupled with the whole Del Monte ownership, and we’d already seen some of their food go downhill, I’ll pass on this one of theirs as well. Plenty of good options out there to not play with NB in my opinion

  • Storm’s Mom

    They’ve put chicken in every recipe again, though..even the fish one.. *sigh*

  • Crazy4dogs

    Has the new Wild Pursuits been rated yet? It looks like a big change in Natural Balance style, meat first, higher protein and freeze dried raw.

  • DogFoodie

    I was just looking at the Natural Balance website and it looks like all of the Alpha dry diets are being discontinued this month.

  • theBCnut

    Do you mean Wikipedia or the thing about sourcing from China? It is a well known fact that Del Monte sources many things from China. Look at their canned fruit next time you go to the grocery store. Why would they source dog food from better sources than people food?

  • Vicki

    I would like to see where this information came from, please?

  • Vicki

    Sorry it took me so long! I just saw this! I have two pups, well, they’re about 1 1/2 years old now, and I’ve been feeding them the small breed bites ever since they were tiny puppies. They free-feed on this and seem to love it. They are very healthy and happy, with no problems at all. I don’t plan to switch to a food for older dogs at all, since this seems to be perfect for them. Good luck and have fun with your “partner”! 😀

  • Kevin Ryan

    I have a Yorkie-Poo and a Dorky-Poo (Dach Yorkie mix). Both eat this food with no problems and love it. Based on comments I see here, I am skeptical but will remain vigilant and keep a watchful eye.

  • KidCorporate

    Thanks for the solid write-up, I’m new to the website but very pleased with what you guys do for us dog owners! I’m bringing my standard poodle puppy in a couple of weeks and a Petco employee mentioned that this food works well for puppy chow and that way I wouldn’t have to worry about transitioning him to adult food. Can anyone else weigh in on this? I’m a longtime dog owner but this is my first puppy

    and I wanna do right by him! 🙂

  • blazeaglory

    NB Synergy has helped my Boston have better and less BM’s and helped her coat, skin, flea problem, etc…If your dog likes it and it makes him/her healthy, then go for it.

    My Boston is allergic to grains so the Synergy has to go. Even on the NB Synergy my Bostons symptoms calmed don IMMENSELY. But now I am going to try a grain free diet to see if it helps even more.

  • blazeaglory

    Who said and is it confirmed?

  • theBCnut

    Until she is completely full grown, she needs to be kept thin so she doesn’t have undo strain put on her joints while she is still growing. But this is a better quality food than RC.

  • Mandy Knight

    hi can I ask is the junior food ok for a yr old st Bernard as a friend said this is the best stuff for her as underweight ect I do not get her till sat but is fed on royal canine ….. but think she isn’t fed enough sorry any advise would be great.x

  • Betsy Greer

    Awww, so sorry for the loss of Colonel, Johnny. Congratulations on the new pup. I bet Mindy’s just adorable. : )

    I’m so glad to hear you’re switching between formulas for a variety of proteins. It would be great if you could add another brand with a different protein to switch up the binders and additional ingredients for even better gut health.

    If I could share one important thing with you thing with you…, you have a large breed puppy and the food you’re feeding actually has a Calcium level that’s too high for a LBP. Large and giant breed puppies need controlled Calcium. They also need to be kept lean and you should avoid over-exercising her as well. Those factors, combined with genetics, can contribute to skeletal disorders, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, in LBP’s. LBP’s don’t self-regulate Calcium until about eight months of age. If your pup is more than eight months of age or about 80% of her full adult size, you no longer need to be as concerned with controlled Calcium levels.

    Here’s some great information about large breed puppies and nutrition from the forum section of this site:

    And, here’s a great list that Hound Dog Mom of foods with appropriate Calcium levels for LBP’s:

  • Johnny Tank

    My GSD named Colonel past a way a few months back and we had
    him on Science Diet and never had a problem with that food; we recently obtained
    a Basset Hound puppy not to replace our loss but to brighten our family… After looking at your website we decided to
    use Natural Balance Alpha Dog food (the Trout, Salmon and Whitefish; the Lamb,
    Chicken and Rabbit; and the Chicken, Turkey Meal and Duck); this food has been
    great… we switch between formulas so she
    can have a variety. Mindy has a
    beautiful coat and is super energetic, your review helped us find a comfortable
    food that we wanted to use and has been a great choice for us!!! Thank you guys for your hard work!!!

  • diannna

    Can’t you read? Stop being so dismissive and ignorant. You should like a freaking child!

  • diannna

    Natural Balance has merged with Del Monte and ” is said to source ingredients from China for their pet foods”

    So think again if this is truly good dog food.

  • diannna

    which is why I would never ever give my dog natural balance, Here that misscedarbridge !! lol

  • Pattyvaughn

    Upvoting your own comment?

  • Pattyvaughn

    Did you read where it is labeled for All Life Stages? AAFCO, who wrote the nutrient profiles, recognizes 2 nutrient profiles, Growth and Maintenance. When a food qualifies for Growth, the makers are allowed to chose whether they want to label it as Growth or All Life Stages. It is a puppy food, and every other age too.

  • Pattyvaughn

    You felt so strongly about that, you had to post it twice? LOL! Disqus sure is peculiar some days. I’m sorry you misunderstand my post, because I’m not wrong. I was suggesting that if the last food your dogs were on was making their stool come out wet and watery that they may need probiotics and digestive enzymes. Which has nothing to do with how they are doing on this food. Glad it’s working for you!! This is my favorite one of their foods.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Again – this is an all life stages food.

    Direct from NB’s website:

    “Complete and balanced nutrition for all breeds, from puppies to adults.”

  • Miss Cedarbridge

    you are wrong after eating Natural Balance Alpha Dog Food they are doing a lot better so thank you

  • Miss Cedarbridge

    this is not a puppy food it only for adult dogs not pups

  • misscedarbridge

    you are wrong after eating Natural Balance Alpha Dog Food they are doing a lot better so thank you

  • paula bohaty

    Very true.

  • Pattyvaughn

    If your dogs have problems digesting a good amount of protein then they need probiotics and digestive enzymes with each meal until their body has a chance to adjust.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    This is an all life stages food (in other words – a puppy food). It is, however, too high in calcium for a large breed puppy.

  • Miss Cedarbridge

    your Rottweiler puppy should be eating puppy food and not this dog food

  • Miss Cedarbridge

    this is a great dog food for dogs my dogs tired this and love it and plus it don’t make my dogs stool comes out wet and watery

  • Bella

    Was just looking up the history of who is manufacturing this food and according to wikipedia Natural Balance has merged with Del Monte and ” is said to source ingredients from China for their pet foods”. I wonder how true this is.

  • John Meloche

    We have a small mixed breed (Jack Russell, Pug, Beagle) and this has been the best food for her. She has been on it for a few years. We had an issue with several other brands as she was having stool issues and stomach issues. With this food her stool is very constant and regular. Also she actually wants to eat this food which is good.

  • ExplorGM

    Our American Bulldog had allergies all her life. We tried many different foods. Once we tried Natural Balance grain free her food allergies went away immediately. We were able to feed her smaller portions so the additional cost was negated somewhat and having smaller and few poops was an added bonus.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Most places will take the food back for an exchange, at least, if not a refund if you haven’t used much of it and have the receipt. While it’s great that you are feeding him a homemade diet, it is a VERY unbalanced diet and while he may be doing great on it now, he won’t in the long term. There’s a spot in the Forums section of this website that has great advice on how to do a homemade diet properly. Check it out!

  • MajorsDaddy

    My Rottweiler puppy HATES this JUNK! I wasted my money buying this food. He tasted it and never ate it again. All of these ‘high priced’ dog foods that are supposed to be good for your dog are nothing more than snake oil. I now cook his food and he’s perfectly healthy and happy. Rice with chicken or turkey and vitamins and he’s thriving and it costs me MUCH less than it would to buy this SWILL every other week.

  • Del Monte just bought Natural Balance so even if you emailed Natural Balance and got an answer, things will probably be changing anyways in the near future.

  • Betsy

    can you tell me where Natural Balance gets its rabbit protein from for its kibble and wet food for dogs?

  • Pattyvaughn

    29% protein doesn’t rate 5 stars in my opinion.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    All of the Natural Balance Alpha formulas are grain-free.

  • acs

    haven’t read all the comments, so sorry if this info is already on this page and I’m being clueless, but the bag I got today says, “Natural Balance Alpha Dog, grain free, Lamb, Chicken Meal & Rabbit Formula. Is there an update to this food yet on here? This review doesn’t say grain free, that I can see. It also seems like a 5 star. Thank you.

  • Pingback: What’s the Deal With Dog Food? | Duncan Pets()

  • Mike P

    As a Boxer lover and having 3 previous Boxers I’s so happy you found a food that works.I just do not believe Boxers do well on grain foods.My current Boxer is on grain free and does great.Your post was good to read and made me smile…

  • I have a 2 year old boxer. When he was a puppy he at Nutros Chicken and Lamb, but then learned about grain free after finding out he has allergies. We switched him to Avo grain free, he did fine. Noticed Nutros new formula was almost grain free except for rice, tried it and he broke out in hives instantly. We new we had to go back to grain free, so decided to try Natural Balance Alpha Dog (Dry), the trout and Salmon (some dogs are allergic to chicken and I didnt want to take the chance) with in the first week noticed a huge difference. Family members that where over commented on how much softer he was and how great his coat looked (was thinning) now its full. His poop went from water to solid and big poops. he likes the taste. It is just as expensive as all the other grain free but completely worth it. If you haven’t tried it you should.

  • Melissaandcrew


    I don’t know that protein is the cause of IBD, but if you feel more comfortable with that, then go for it. I personally feed my dogs kibble with the protein around 31 or so percent-because when I go higher, I seem to have stomach issues with some of them-but, I do add meat, canned and raw frozen, so I figure stick with what works.

    However, my dobe who seems to have some form of IBD  now seems to do best on NV Instinct Chicken(42% protein, 22% fat) with the raw mixed in, so go figure! Due to a  recent flareup, she is getting more raw now(Instinct frozen) then kibble.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Yes, this.

  • Shawna

    Hi Jan ~~ dogs with IBD don’t need lower protein or lower fat (depending on the cause of the IBD).  Rather, they need to figure out what is triggering the IBD and remove that from the diet (pending it is food that is the trigger versus drugs or parasites etc).  Yes, while exhibity signs of diarrhea a “bland” diet is often recommended but that is to control the symptoms and is not a long term solution.

    Glutamine and (another amino acid in protein foods—-that I am blanking on right now) actually help the gut heal. 

    Dr. Becker writes on her page about IBD (when the cause of the IBD is food related) 

    “Food intolerance or sensitivity can begin with a poor quality, non-species appropriate diet – one that is high in unnecessary carbohydrates. Processed pet food containing a lot of corn, wheat or rice can create inflammation in the gut of your carnivorous dog or cat, designed to digest meat – not grains….

    I recommend a grain-free, bland diet because in my experience it’s more suitable to pets with active symptoms of IBD.”

    My Pom Gizmo gets colitis (a form of IBD) from eating too much chicken and from NSAIDs..  Doesn’t matter how much fat or protein is in the diet — she gets symptoms when eating chicken and is relieved of symptoms when not eating chicken.

  • Shawna

    That’s interesting…  How do they know it is glucosamine?

    Senior dogs (they now know) actually need more protein then adult dogs.  Up to 50% more.  Unless protein is counter indicated for the meds, I wouldn’t worry about giving too much protein…

  • sleepless

    Patty, with adding fresh meat to the diet, I don’t want to start with too high a protien content. My dog is pretty senior and on medications so with the additional meat, I’d like to keep it still in the 35 percent range for protien.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Sorry if I’m misunderstanding, but when my puppy flared up, my vet said to watch grains in his diet.  He did mention not letting the fat get too high and appropriate fiber, but not limiting protein. 

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    Patty…IBD is a health problem that her dog has, and while I agree that with a normal, healthy dog high protein might be best a dog with IBD probably needs a lower protein food (generally because they need a lower fat and with that comes lower protein).  NB Alpha is a grain free food with a G/A protein of 26% and a fat of 12%, not bad for a dog with IBD (if it works).  There are some others that I might recommend…..Wellness Core Reduced Fat and Holistic Select grain free.  Also, Blue Wilderness might have a food similar to Core RF, I think it’s called Wilderness Healthy Weight, or something like that.  These foods have a little higher protein and less/or similar fat than the NB Alpha and are grain free, as well..

  • Pattyvaughn

    If he flares up regularly, I would seriously consider going grain free. Actually I would go grain free anyway. Grains are not good for a dogs intestines under the best of circumstances. When a dog’s intestines are inflamed, that’s like adding wood to the fire. Don’t worry about protein level unless, he has a health problem that specifically requires low protein. God made your dog a carnivore, he is meant to eat meat.

  • Sleepless

    My poor dog has IBD and is allergic to glucosamine from shellfish, beef and pork. So…I need a food that is fairly low fat and doesn’t contain those ingredients. I’m not sure about grains. Additionally, I add cooked meat with calcium and sometimes yogurt, so I’d prefer it to not be too high in protien. This looks like one to try. He refused to eat the NB Sweet Potato and Venison unless very disguised, which is unusual for him.

    Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Kaw5885

    I wasn’t sure if I could trust the company, but that’s good to know that CJ Foods actually manufactures Alpha.  Is there any reason now to trust CJ foods?

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    Imho, there is no reason.  While NB “may” still use Diamond to manufacture some of their formulas….I say “may” because I just haven’t been given definitive proof that they’re not using them….they don’t manufacture all of their food.  In fact, if I remember correctly, CJ Foods manufactures Alpha.  If you feel you can trust this company, your dog likes the food and does well on it, then I say again, “there is no reason not to feed it”. 

  • Kaw5885

    I got a bunch of different samples from different brands for my dog to try, and NB Alpha was his favorite out of all of them.  Can anyone give me any reason not to switch his food to Alpha?  

  • Msclb2

    The Alpha is my dog’s favorite, too. I tried the higher protein ones, and it gave her the runs, also. She wouldn’t eat all of it after a couple of days. Switched back to the Alpha with rabbit, and she’s happily scarfing it up and her poop is back to normal.

  • Their being wishy-washy and obviously poor internal communication is almost as bad as their association with Diamond.

  • hi

  • Melissaandcrew

     I called them to find out where the Alpha was made and asked a that time if they were leaving. The rep told me Yes, sooner than later. Fast forward a week and I speak with the rep a second time about something else. I asked if they were leaving Diamond and she said ” No, I don’t think so”.

  • BryanV21

    I heard rumors that they were leaving Diamond, but I have yet to hear anything definitive. It’s not exactly something they should be secretive about.

  • Dwnjrzyshore

    I don’t think NB is producing anymore in Diamond plants. Maybe they got tired of guilt by association after that last black eye!

  • NicksLaLa33

    I tried those brands you mentioned and my dog did NOT like them, plus the ones with the higher protein amounts gave him the runs.  The Alpha with chicken, turkey meal & duck is the only grain-free we’ve ever bought that he will actually eat.  He’s doing great on it and I recommend this to all my dog-parent friends.

  • Mydogcheeba

     thank you

  • Jr12teluki6a

    Had the same issues with my golden retriever on Orijen, I am now mixing 20% Orijen and 80% NB Alpha, stool seems ok, pretty firm. I am maintaining 20% Orijen just to consume it.

  • aimee

    Not sure how much barley is in the diet but barley as an ingredient has been associated with loose stools compared to other carb sources.

    “Fecal scores were consistently greater (i.e., looser stools) for the barley treatment” Murray 1999    

  • BryanV21

    On top of what Waterwings said, how long since you changed? Was it right after the recall came out on July 12th? I ask because it can take a dog around 2 weeks to get used to a new food, during which you may see some diarrhea, loose stool, or digestive upset. 

    Merrick Classic is also a bit higher in protein. Not a big difference, but maybe that’s making the transition a little tougher. 

    Other than that, how about some plain yogurt? In my experience it’s a bit better than pumpkin at settling stomachs. 

  • Waterwings

    Yorkmom – try feeding them less. Persistent “soft serve” can be a symptom/result of overeating.

  • Yorkmom

    Having trouble with 2 of my five Yorkie’s, switched from Natures Variety beef and barley, because of the recall. Did not transition at all, feeding Merrick Classic beef and barley, three weeks in to the food and 2 are still doing soft serve, yes I have tried pumpkin, did not help, next will be vet check. Any suggestions?

  • BryanV21

    Yeah, I’m with Hound Dog Mom. Acana would be the way to go if you want a lower protein content. I’m not a big fan of Natural Balance, as it’s made in Diamond plants.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Mydogcheeba –

    If you feel the Orijen wasn’t working because it’s so high in protein, I’d suggest trying Acana. Acana is made by the same company as Orijen, it has a similar formula and the same quality ingredients, it’s just slightly lower in protein. Sometimes adding a little canned pumpkin helps as well.

  • Mydogcheeba

     i had my dog on orijen and there is so much protein she had very loose stools. i am now thinking of natural balance alpha

  • CrystalTheCat

    Switched my dogs to Alpha last month because they had some digestion problems and so far, the results are outstanding.  No more unpredictable stool, I’m guessing because of the prebiotics in the formula, and both dogs love the taste.  (We feed the Alpha chicken, turkey meal & duck).   I also just started feeding the cat version to my cats, and so far, so good, as I expected.

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    I know how you feel, melissa.  I’m even thinking of moving on to a “non-Diamond” food.  I hope I can find one that my dogs as well on, though!  I’m thinking of actually trying Orijen Senior (the fat, and even the protein kinda scares me) or Avoderm or Pinnacle.  I’m leaning towards Avoderm or Pinnacle atm.  Breeder’s Choice has been around forever with no recalls.  I’m gonna research.

  • melissa

    One thing I wanted to mention-

    I had asked Natural Balance were their ingredients were sourced from as I try to avoid ingredients from China(my personal hangup) Just spoke with the rep yesterday, and I was told that they would NOT disclose where their ingredients came from. They stated that it was proprietary, to avoid other manufacturers from finding out their supplier information, although they stated the Vit C comes from China(which is common) -and that their ingredients are sourced “all over the world”, but not to worry, they test them. This is the first company that has told me country of sourcing was proprietary, and it makes me unhappy. : ) I am going to feed what I have, but will probably move on.

  • melissa

     I went to Petco to take advantage of the $5 off per bag, and I also had a 10 percent off my entire purchase coupon : ) I was able to get 2 of the fish, 2 of the one with rabbit, and another of the chicken. I opened the fish today to give them a taste, and they love that just as much as the chicken.  One thing I find very interesting. I have a dog that is an extremely picky eater. In order to get him to eat, we always have to mix a pure meat topper and even then, he picks and takes forever. With both the chicken and fish that they have tried, he will actually come running  and wolf down the kibble straight from my hand. This has never happened with him before, so I am thrilled. Most grain frees cause him to loose weight, so I am hoping this one with higher carbs will keep the weight on!

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    The Synergy actually looks pretty interesting, especially if you have a dog with stool issues.  Again, I don’t know what plant it’s made in atm….I almost tried it, but decided on the Alpha.  It has a little lower fat, I think.

  • daisy1999

    It looks like most of the LIDs are grain free also.  But, I’m going to wait also till they change plants.  I was laughing also about your dog’s reaction to the food.  Mine are like a pack of wild wolves when venison is in the house, so maybe that blend might be dangerous!  Prob. going to try out the new grain free Wellness Simple Solutions in the mean time.  Then rotate if they are working or have a backup if not.  I got chicken on rotating with too many issues to address, but willing to try again. 

  • melissa


    Their other lines have always interested me, but I would never bother due to the Diamond component.  When they move out of the Diamond plant, I will try some of the others in the grain portion of the rotation.

  • melissa

    As a side note-I was very impressed with the customer service ladies-actually answered the phone, promptly, and transferred me to the Customer Service department. The gal I spoke with was pleasant, and there was no “pulling teeth’  to get the info I wanted : )

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    daisy….I’m not sure where their LIDs are made atm…I’m assuming Diamond 🙁      But you might call and see how long it’s gonna take to get them out of Diamond.  I love their LID foods!  I started out with them and it went great, but I wanted to try the Alpha to see how it worked with mine and it is working fine, so I think we’ll stick with the Alpha line.

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    Hahaha!  I know what you mean.  I’ve been feeding the Trout, but also just bought a bag of the Chicken/Turkey…..I offered some as a taste test and wow, the same thing happened lol…I almost lost a finger, too!  Guess I’ll be rotating through the flavors 🙂

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    I’m thrilled to hear that they will be moving all their foods away from Diamond!  I feel this is a gem of a food for people who need/want grain free, moderate protein, lower fat.  I like that there’s no flaxseed in it, myself.  My dogs are loving it!

  • daisy1999

    Melissa-Thanks for making the call.  That’s good to hear.
    Jan-Thanks for pointing this brand out.  I have a Petco right up from me.  Even though I can’t do the Alpha, the LID diets interest me.  My dogs go crazy over deer meat, so the venison could be a hit-will just have to figure the actual fat.  Do you know if Diamond manufactures this line?  If so, I can just wait on the transition.  Thanks again for recommending it as a low fat.

  • melissa


    Thnaks for the comment! I hope my crew does as well!

  • melissa


    Lol. Next time give fair warning-I bought the chicken, turkey and duck formula-I opened it to “check it out” and the dogs started milling around, wanting a taste-so I obliged and nearly lost a finger, lol. I think this is going to be a HUGE hit!

  • Chris

     I have 2 beagles age 3 and 4 puppies they ate royal canine then purina B which is crap now there eating NB ALPHA DOG rabbit they love it no problems

  • melissa

     Hi Jan-


    Going to get some today- the fat levels are perfect for my crew-this may be the first time they are able to go completely grain free : )When mixed 50/50 with the Acana, it would put the fat levels at about 14.5-15 percent-

    I spoke with customer service, because I am ,well, a doubting thomas, lol. They told me the same thing-CJ foods.

    They also told me that “very shortly” they will be moving ALL their lines out of Diamond plants. And,
    Imo, when that occurs, they deserve a bunch of “atta boys/girls”

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    Hi melissa, so far so good with the Alpha Trout.  I have even gone a whole day with just canned food and the Alpha (didn’t add probiotics/enzymes) and they seem to be doing fine with it.  No rumblies or loose stool!  The customer service said that no Alpha is made by Diamond.  It’s made by CJ Foods in Kansas.

  • melissa


    Let us know how it goes! The fact that Diamond does not make it, makes it an option for me as well : ) Fat is right that I could feed it solo, but the Diamond link kept me from trying it-

  • PatricksDanes2

    Jan_Mom2Cavs I second everything you said.  My Australian Shepard also eats Alpha and loves it so much that she has to come and remind me when it’s mealtime if I am a minute late feeding her!   I also called the company with a few questions back when we first bought the first bag and their customer service couldn’t have been better, nor could the vet tech on the phone have been more knowledgeable about the food.  I read a bunch of positive Alpha dog food reviews before we tried it, but the proof is in my beautiful girl.  Honestly, I can’t think of any Natural Balance complaints.

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    I also found out today that the Alpha line is not manufactured at all by Diamond.  So far, the dogs are loving it and no stomach issues.  Yay!

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    So far, no stomach issues for Stella with this mixed in with the potato & duck, and even though it’s a bigger kibble size she’s eating it very well!  She likes it…I have been using it as treats, too.  I called Natural Balance (and they were very friendly and helpful!) and asked about calorie count, calc/phos and carbs.  Btw, she said the carb count for all formulas was 43.  Not too bad, imo.  The Trout has 340 cals/cup and calc/phos of 1.7/.093 (dry matter), Chicken/Turkey and Lamb each have 360 cals/cup and 1.8/.097 and 1.6/.086 calc/phos respectively.  The fat percentage is perfect for my crew so it looks like I’m going to transition totally over to it.  I’ll keep you posted.

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    I’ve been using the Alpha Trout for some of my dogs and I love it!  They eat it heartily and actually seem more energetic and younger!  I’m thinking of trying to mix some of it in Stella and Laverne’s Pot. & Duck to see how they do with their digestive issues.  If it turns out okay for them, then I’ll switch them all to it.

  • Ally

    I’ve decided on taste of the wild

  • Addie

    Their biggest bag is 28 lbs. Most of the big dog food companies have gone to smaller bags without changing the price. Nutro had a lot of issues with customers for doing this. Solid Gold will also be making their bags smaller sometime soon. A good 4 star food is Canidae ALS, it comes in 44 lbs and is usually around $45, and Canidae does a frequent buyer program. A few cost effective grain frees are Taste of the Wild, Earthborn, and NutriSource. NutriSource also has a frequent buyer program. 

  • Whyme22z

    Let me know what brand you come with.

  • Ally

    I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but I was talking to someone at my local PETCO and they had informed me that Natural Balance is making their bags smaller this year. Also, PETCO pushes this food more than others because they are paid to. Natural Balances biggest bags in the grain free is 24lbs (I think). I plan on switching my dogs to a gain free food I just don’t know which one yet about NB because of the smaller bags at the same price. I breed dogs so I want a 4-5 star food in big bags that won’t cost me an arm and a leg (I buy in bulk)

  • Wally Wonder

    Hi I have a 3 month old lab with the same problem.I will Maybe try a grain free dog food. What’s a good usa made no chinese ingredient dog food.

  • Johnandchristo

    Hi Bo…

    Sorry your having a hard time with your dog. I also have a Lab. I had a lot of trouble with finding the right food. My lab is now 12 month’s. I never heard of a dog 
    (lab) eating that much  (8 cups).. My dog Christo eats 2 cups
    sometimes 3, with added meat or fish , I feed him Brother’s Complete dry kibble. He has only had about
    30#s now, but it has transformed him. He is gaining pounds and his coat and eyes are in the bloom of health. It is the only food that worked for me. You can get free sample’s at
    A lot of people on this site have tried this food and had great results. the food is pricey, but cheaper than the vet. If you can do it feed your dog raw, thats the best, but really hard sometimes. (at least for me).
    good luck.

  • monkey

    Bo, do you have any small pet stores near you? I bet if you go into a nice small one they would give you a ton of samples to try out. Basically i would just to try to find something simple for your dog right now that will allow you to get him off Science diet. Maybe..
    Blue Buffalo Freedom
    California Natural Grain free
    Wellness Super 5 Mix Whitefish and Sweet potato

    Just some ideas

  • Hi Bo,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s loose stools and digestive problems. I know this must be so frustrating for you.

    However, since I’m not a veterinarian and due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or product recommendations.

    If the food your vet has prescribed is helping your dog, then you should ignore my reviews and stick with what works.

    In any case, you may wish to check back for a possible response from one of our other readers.

    Wish I could be more help.

  • Bo

    I have a 18 month old lab that has consistent looes stools.  Have tried several foods and unfortunately the worst seems to work, Science Diet D/D which has a terrible rating but of course recommended by the vet.  He is constantly hungry, goes to the bathroom immediately after eating with other foods. I can feed him 4 cups twice a day and he still acts like he is starving.  Would probably eat the entire bag if allowed. Have had all vet tests and bloodwork, nothing found wrong.  Any suggestions?  Perhaps Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon, Natural Balance Alpha, Trout, Salmon or Blue Buffalo Basics or Freedom?  I tried the Blue Buffalo Puppy when he was a puppy and the same loose stools.  Help please 

  • melissa


    Every one rotates as they feel comfortable. My theory has always been something is better than nothing, and therefore I have suggested to people in the past that sometimes mixing will offer a variety without the huge price point.Many foods come in sample size bags of under $3 or $4 and can be mixed with the “regular food” to offer variety and see if it agrees with your dogs before committing to a larger bag. I am not a raw feeder, but I use premade frozen  as treats or toppers from time to time as well.

  • SKYvolcom,

    If your dogs have never eaten anything different then go real slow with the change.  I know some transition in 5 days and some do it in 2 weeks and some may take a month.  No need to rush.  Mine had a mixture of 2 foods together for 2 months when he first went to a high protein grain free food.  If they start getting GI upsets, then back off a bit until things settle and then continue. Giving a good probiotic and digestive enzyme will also be beneficial. Some people will add a tablespoon of yogurt for the probiotic and if stools get loose then a tablespoon or 2 of pumpkin puree.

    You’ll find that your dogs do well on some foods but not others. Some foods might cause them to have gas or to have loose stools or to be constipated.  Don’t let that discourage you. Giving your dog a variety of different foods has its health benefits. 

    I’m not familiar with Bench & Field Holistic, but if your dog tolerates NB Alpha at 29% protein, maybe the next change you can go a little higher.  I might not try Orijen right away as it is 38% and has quite a few botanicals that aren’t in many dog foods.  They might need to work up to that one!

    I foster so I get many many dogs that I don’t know what they have been eating and change them cold turkey to whatever I’m feeding.  They eat a mixture of a grain food and a grain free food (for a total around 32% protein) and don’t have any problems with that.  My personal dogs eat anywhere from 35 to 40% and raw which is even higher.  They now eat a different food every bag and eat proteins like duck, pheasant, quail, even some rabbit and eel. They eat kibble one day, raw the next, kibble and canned the next, no issues and really enjoy every meal – especially the raw chicken legs!!

  • SKYvolcom

    I have 2, seven year old male pekingese. They share the same father.  One was clearly the runt of the his litter and the other… lol… was exactly the opposite.  Even the vet says, “That’s the biggest Peek I’ve ever seen!” He’s not fat, nor is the little guy too small (10 lbs. and 21 lbs.) but the little guy for sure has a lot of skin and allergy issues (as is common with the Peek breed). 
    I want the best for my guys of course, but doing research after research after research on the appropriate dog food, I’ve practically become confused.
    For the last 2 years they have been eating Bench and Field Holistic and been doing very well.  I did not know however that you should switch up dog food every 3-6 months for variety.
    So today we started the NB Alpha Lamb, Chix, and Rabbit.  We started with just 25% of the NB mixed in and they seem to like the taste (I don’t know if all Peeks are like this, but mine are very finicky and spoiled eaters). 
    I really wanted to try Orijen but wasn’t sure I could afford it. 

    I welcome any suggestions, comments or advice as I make sure my little guys are eating the absolute best for them and for my wallet.

  • Emjoe5,

    Have you asked them where they source their rabbit from? I’m curious. There’s a bit of controversy over rabbit as alot of it comes from China.

  • cathy,

    Older dogs still require good quality and quantity of animal based proteins in their diet.  Just because they are senior does not mean they need less.  The majority of “senior” foods are lacking in the protein department and are full of fillers and grain fillers can make arthritis worse since they are “inflammatory foods”.  I would continue to feed a good “adult” food, not “senior” with few exceptions: Acana  Senior, Blue Buffalo Wildnerness  Senior, Amicus Senior, Orijen Senior, Go! Fit & Free Grain Free Senior.  Also a good natural joint supplement – a raw chicken wing a day!  But if you don’t like raw here’s a supplement with no fillers or grain: one for joints and one for geriatric.

  • cathy

    I am looking for a food to feed to my 13 1/2 yr old Queensland Heeler. She is starting to show her age, but still healthy and active. want to keep her that way for as long as posable. Any elderly dog food recommendations?

  • Emjoe5

    I recently rescued a 10yr old Cocker who is blind and deaf. I recently switched him to the Alpha with the Chicken, Lamb and Rabbit and he loves it. My two Cockapoo’s also are on this now and it is the first food I have given them I haven’t had to mix.

  • Anonymous

     I breed Cocker Spaniels and raise all my dogs on this food, from puppies through adults and seniors.  Based on the ingredients I consider the healthiest, most well-rounded formula to give my dogs all the nutrition they need.  I tell everyone who adopts to continue feeding Ultra and they all do, with great results as well.  Dogs love the taste as well.

  • Dannyboy0913

    I have a 10 month American Bulldog who is a slow eater. When it is feeding time he will take about 45 mins to a hour to eat his food. Everything broke him out and I’m trying the Alpha meal this round. From the start my dog started eating the food like a mad man. When I feed him now he is finish his bowl in 5 or less mins. Its a plus for me I will report back after he finished the bag

  • Anonymous

    I wanted a holistic food that was grain-free for my Australian Shepherd.  She’s getting older and started having some skin issues and hot spots.  I feed my other dogs Natural Balance so I tried the Alpha on her and she loved it right away.  It didn’t take long for her redness and licking to go away.  I don’t eat gluten myself and this grain-free diet for my dog makes sense to me, as there are many health benefits to the diet.  The bite size is perfect for her and helps clean her teeth as well.  We will keep buying this healthy dog food for our girl.

  • Fishman_7

    Natural Balance Alpha Dog Lamb, Chicken Meal and Rabbit

    My vet recommended it for my 6 year old brittany with some skin allergies.  He loves it, his skin and coat look better after about 2 months on it and I could swear he has more energy…practically like a new puppy…makes my 2 year old GSP happy

  • Jessica

    Mary, my bulldog has so many allergies so I have him eating Natural Balance’s Potato and Duck dry food. I definitely recommend this if you’re looking for something that has limited ingredients. I don’t think the Alpha formula is a limited ingredient formula, but I know for sure it’s grain-free. My dog used to have bad skin problems when he was on another brand, but his skin problems seemed to have cleared up once I switched him to Natural Balance.

  • Mary J. Whitesides

    My vet at VCA took my dog off of Natural Balance Limited Ingredience because she said that it isn’t, She feels that in the production there are other things left in. So my dog is on Hypoallergenic “Royal Canin” The kibbles are too big and do not even break down in water. He has an aweful skin condition…which is why she put him only on Royal Canin.
    So is you limited ingredient dog food…not?????

  • Giuliana

    RE: Alpha Dog, Natural Balance (Rabbit)
    So far, this is the only quality dry food my very picky Afghan Hound will eat. I will say that I’m happy to find a grain free that ISN’T as high a protein rating, as some breeds (afghan hounds) don’t always do best on some of the higher protein kibbles. I am hoping they are going to make a wet food as well.

  • Tami

    Ru – poor choice of words on my part, “celebrity-endorsed”. I definitely agree with you! I just meant that I was a bit sceptical about it at first, until I read more into the brand and the kibble itself. Very impressive stuff! Bottom line for me, though, is that my pup loves it and his disgestive system agrees with it, his coat’s looking better than ever and he’s got wonderful energy… so hopefully the lectin-contained garbanzo beans and potatoes aren’t anything to worry too much about! …at least for now!

  • Shawna

    EXCELLENT article Jonathan!!!

    I am allergic to dairy (pasteurized and raw).. I was talking with someone and mentioned I’m Native American and she said “no wonder you can’t tolerate dairy”…

  • Jonathan
  • Jonathan

    Thank-you, Shawna, for bringing up lechins. They do very similar things to the body as the gluten of grains do. Legumes and grains are an unnatural foodstuff for man and beast. Anything that must be processed just to be able to digest it and make it LESS toxic, is not food.

  • Shawna

    There are a few things I don’t like about this food…

    The potato and garbanzo beans both have lectins in them — this is information taken from a site run by M.D.s and other health care professionals. It’s titled “Lectins: A Little Known Trouble Maker”

    “Lectins are involved in food allergies/sensitivities, inflammation and autoimmune disease, just to name a few. For instance, lectins are linked to celiac disease. Even weight gain and low energy can be linked to lectins.”

    Garbanzo Beans also have anti-nutrients like phytic acid which prevent certain minerals (like zinc and calcium) from being absorbed.

    The other ingedient that concerns me is “natural flavors”. In human foods “natural flavors” are a known source of monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is used in foods because it “enhances” the flavor of the food by giving it a “savory” (or meaty) taste..

  • Ru

    To Tami,
    Natural Balance Pet Foods is not another “celebrity-endorsed” brand…This is not just an actor putting his name on a product….Dick Van Patten originally started this company in the late 80’s! If NB feeds zoos and animal reserves worldwide, I think they do real well with cats & dogs….as you already know! The same zoologic expertise was used to holistically formulate the Alpha line.
    If you notice there is not any marketing hype with his line of products as there is with so many other “big brands” that in many cases, produce products that are really not the greatest for your pet!

  • Tami

    Sorry, probably should’ve mentioned that my pup is a Swedish Vallhund ..and that besides choosing this food because of the different ingredients, I also chose it because of the quality of those ingredients..I was impressed with what they’ve packed into this kibble! I was a bit reluctant to choose a “celebrity-endorsed” brand that isn’t one of the “big/quality names”, but I’m so glad I looked past that and found this hidden gem!

  • Tami

    I just started my 11 month old pup on to NB Alpha Dog Trout, Salmon Meal and Whitefish a few days ago. I got him just over a month ago, and since I’m getting down to the end of bag of Kirkland puppy formula his previous home was feeding him, I’m transitioning him to “adult” food. I tried a couple of other brands that caused horrible diarrhea (even with only 25% of the new food to the 75% of his regular food!) – and these were 5 star foods on this site! – so I tried this one basically because it had COMPLETELY different ingredients than he had had before… it was such a relief that his stool immediately became even firmer than it has ever been! And he LOVES it! When I brought the bag back home he couldn’t stop smelling it and is always excited when I reach into that bag to feed him! NB Alpha Dog Trout, Salmon Meal and Whitefish is a keeper!!

  • Michelle

    nurse nicole-vegetarian kibble is not species appropriate for your dog. Also dogs actually have no nutritional requirement for carbs, probably one of the biggest reasons that some dogs are so fat….

  • Hi Todd… Why not start your search by checking out our 4 and 5-star rated dog food lists. Or visit the Library and look for the article, “Best Grain Free Dog Foods”. Unfortunately, due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, I cannot provide customized product recommendations for each reader. For more help, please check back for a possible response from one of our other readers. Hope this helps.

  • Todd

    I’ve recently adopted a beagle puppy…he’s only 12 weeks old…i was wondering what would be the best food that i could get for Jake?? The highest amount of protein with no grain?? Thanks so much for any help/info

  • Tony

    Hello. My dog was on Innova Large Bites for Adult Dogs. He was too hyper and energetic on it. Almost like he was out of control. First, I switched him to Merrick Cowboy Cookout. He was calmer, but even after 10 days of transitioning, his stool was soft. I then switched to Natural Balance Alpha (Lamb, Chicken, and Rabbit version). On NB, he is not only calmer but his stool was solid from the start.

    I suspect the Innova probably causes a “sugar rush” on my dog. Merrick and NB probably has carb sources that digest more slowly. I also noticed that Innova has over 500 calories per cup! Yeah, it’s energy density is pretty high and stool output was pretty low. But, I will gladly put up with slightly higher stool volume to have a calmer dog.

    Out of the three, NB is without a doubt the most expensive. It is perhaps the most expensive dry food at Petco. I’m willing to put up with that because it seems to agree with my dog. I can tell you this though. I make sure none of this expensive food goes to waste! I store the food in one of those food vault containers.

  • nursenicole

    Hi there! I have read all of these comments with great interest, so glad to have found this post!

    I recently adopted a dachshund mix, approx 1 year old, and we started her on NB vegetarian kibble + various NB canned food for additional flavor/variety. (diet is primarily dry kibble, I use less than 1/2 a small can total daily, meals are 3x daily)

    Her mealtime behavior suggests she does not like the vegetarian kibble as much as she did when she first came home with us, and I thought I’d switch to a different NB variety of kibble – I chose the alpha dog trout/salmon/whitefish kibble, and the transition really only started last night so I can’t say what it will do to her stool frequency/consistency (!!!) — she does seem to enjoy it so far though. I am reading the comments and conversation on glycemic load/glycemic index with great interest, but I am not educated enough in dog nutrition to know if I am doing the right thing for this pooch.

    So, I am curious if anyone has any input on my situation – she’s 12 pounds, eats 3x daily, total amount of food is just over 1 cup kibble daily, plus a very small amount of various NB canned foods. She looks great, skin maybe a little on the dry side but has been improving over the last few months since she came home with us. I have had dachshunds in the past and I know their propensity for weight gain which is why the carb/GI conversation caught my eye, but she also has other breeds in there- Jack Russell, maybe, or rat terrier- whatever else is in there she is a very high-energy dog and is outside several times a day with us, and I think would benefit from a decent amount of carbohydrate but also higher protein than the veg kibble gave her (22% protein vs 26% in the Alpha formulation).

    hope you guys have some input- and thanks again for this post!!

  • John

    I just switched my 3 year old Beagle over to NB Alpha (Green) a week ago. In that time his stool quality has improved dramatically and his dry skin has cleared. I had been feeding him premium low-calorie or reduced fat formulas for some time, but with every brand I tried I got the same results, runny stool. The great thing about this product is the low fat and average caloric content, so I don’t have to worry about my pup packing on the pounds (which Beagles are notorious for). This is our first try with grain free products as well. My suspicion is that these low-calorie products that I had been feeding him were loaded with grain and other fillers and not enough protein, which probably upset his GI track. Now that he is eating grain free, again, he has become more regular. Of course grain-free isn’t the lone factor for better digestion; there are other ingredients in this food that also promote healthy digestion and they all seem to be working in harmony! I can’t say enough how pleased I am with NB Alpha. Highly recommend!!

  • Antonio

    @Kelly, listen to Jonathan, he’s right about the carbs and sedentary dogs. Be careful not to get heavy handed in their feeding.

  • Jonathan

    “Boston Terriers are not active dogs so the carbs have not been a big deal.”

    Not that I think this is a bad food, I would mention, though, that high carbs are MORE detrimental to sedentary dogs than active ones. Refined carbs turn quickly to blood sugar, and if this energy is not used, insulin is produced to store it as body fat. Just be sure to not overfeed them. Fat Bostons are all too common! 😉

  • Kelly


    I had my dogs on Wellness Core but they did not like the taste and after trying a few kinds we got on Natural Balance. The dogs like the taste much better especially the Alpha. Their skin issues, hot spots and licking have completely stopped and the price is reasonable. Boston Terriers are not active dogs so the carbs have not been a big deal. I highly recommend it to my friends or folks complaining of allergies and skin issues.

  • Jonathan

    Any time Lauren!

  • Lauren

    Thank you so much. You and Mike are extremely helpful and I appreciate the research and advice you offer. Grateful for your time!

  • Jonathan

    Core is significantly better. Read through all of Mike’s articles under “article library” and you will get an idea of why core is better than NB. And don’t get me wrong… NB is a decent food. Core is just that much better. 🙂

  • Lauren

    Hi Jonathan – Oh no I didn’t think that you were suggesting that Pro Plan was a better food at all! I hope my reply didn’t come across that way! You’ve been very helpful. When you say that Wellness Core is the better food, are you comparing that to Pro Plan of the Alpha Natural Balance? Do you think that Wellness Core (reduced fat) is significantly better than Natural Balance Alpha or are they comparable? I’d like to keep my one dog on Alpha because of the slightly lower protein. Sorry for all of the questions – I’m learning a lot from your feedback. Thanks for your time.

  • Jonathan

    Pro Plan is certainly NOT a better food. I was not suggesting that at all. A high glycemic index is a negative, not a positive. Unnatural spikes in blood sugar lead to weight gain and diabetes. Wellness core is the better product BECAUSE of the higher protein/lower carbs! Have a read of Mike’s FAQ article about protein. 🙂

  • Lauren

    Hi Jonathan – Thanks so much for your input. What you said certainly does make sense. I was hoping that this food would keep him energized, he just seems too lazy now for such a young dog. Maybe he just needs to get used to such a good food. I feed my other dog Wellness Core, but I liked that this food had a little lower protein. In your opinion, which food do you prefer? Or, like you said, maybe the Pro Plan was just making him hyper. I don’t think it’s safe to say that Pro Plan is a better food than Natural Balance…

  • Jonathan

    As I said, it could be the difference in the amount of blood sugar that results from eating this versus the Pro Plan. Potatoes have a GI of 57, garbanzo beans 33, and peas 22. Those are the main non-meat ingredients in this food. Pro Plan, on the other hand, is made from brewers rice (58), whole grain wheat (41), and whole grain corn (53). So the average GI of the ingredients used in Pro Plan is higher than the ingredients used to make NB. This is entirely speculative on my part, and I could be completely wrong. I must, however, also note that the total carb % of Pro Plan is lower than NB (44% vs 50%) so it’s possible that that would even out the ingredient’s GI differences. But then again, much of the “protein” in Pro Plan is from corn gluten and by-products. So, yeah, maybe your pup was a little hyperactive on the Pro Plan compared to NB. But again, if he become more lethargic, check with your vet.

  • Lauren

    Hi Jonathan – yes, I did transition slowly. I mixed and gradually increased for a week. Now he is on this dog food alone. I would think this food would be better for him? I’m hoping it’s just a temporary change. Unless maybe the other food just made him super-hyper and this food is the right fit for him and this is how is normal energy level should be?

  • Jonathan

    Lauren, did you transition him slowly? You know, his system could be use to the higher glycemic load caused by the corn and rice heavy Pro Plan. His body may need time to adjust to the less sugary potatoes in this food. But if this keeps up, you should probably check with a vet.

  • Lauren

    Recently switched my 15-pound 1 year old dog to this food. Love that it is grain free and not as high in protein as the other grain-free foods. Noticed that my dog is definitely much more tired than he used to be since the switch. He used to be on Pro Plan for small breed. I know you aren’t a vet, but do you think there could be a correlation between the fatigue and switch to grain-free? Maybe too many carbs? I’m just guessing, and my vet doesn’t seem to know too much about dog food. Hoping you might be able to offer some insight. Thanks a million.

  • Hi Lauren… According to modern veterinary experts, “high” protein (which should be considered “normal” protein if you’re attempting to mimic a dog’s natural ancestral diet) is not automatically detrimental to a dog with healthy kidneys. However, since I’m not a veterinarian, it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or product recommendations regarding infections of the urinary tract. Wish I could be more help.

  • Lauren

    I’m familiar with the controversy regarding the kidneys and a higher-protein food, but do you know if the higher protein is said to have any affect on other parts of the urinary tract? I’ve moved 2 dogs to grain-free food recently – one to this brand, the other to Wellness Core. They seem to be drinking more water than before. The one on Wellness seems to be “grooming” himself more as well. Hoping it’s just a coincidence, but wondering if you are familiar with a possible link. The grain-free has been the answer to my one dog’s stomach problems – I would hate to have to change his food. Any input you can offer is much appreciated.

  • Jonathan

    Yeah, I was just thinking, in a healthy dog, the less sugar-spiking variations of carbs could help avoid future problems. This would certainly be no good for a diabetic pooch!

  • Hi Jonathan… Maybe. Without actually measuring and referencing the glycemic index, we’re only guessing. The glycemic index is directly (but not solely) related to the amount of carbs. And this food still contains a whopping 50% carbohydrate content. So, yes, it might be a little lower. But it would likely be too high to feed a diabetic dog safely.

    By the way, there are very few kibbles that might qualify for being called “low glycemic”. But plenty of quality canned or raw foods that might. The carbs should be a major tip off.

  • Jonathan

    I would note, however, that the carbohydrates used in this food probably lend it to have a lower glycemic index than foods made with corn, rice, and wheat. Is that a fair assumption Mike?

  • Hi Lauren… Carbs are not by themselves bad in a dog (or human) food. But the amount should be considered a problem. Too many refined carbs (wheat flour, corn meal) can possess a high glycemic index. This means they can increase blood glucose (sugar) too rapidly. The body then produces excess insulin which causes the deposition of excess body fat (called adiposity). We prefer dog food with below average carbohydrate content.

    In any case, you may find my article about dog food carbohydrates helpful.

  • Lauren

    Can anyone help break explain to me carbohydrates in a dog food? Or maybe point me in the direction of an article on the topic? Are they not bad if they are high-quality carbs? Sorry for all of the questions, just want to make sure I’m doing right by my dog. I really like the look of this food, but see that it is higher in carbs than some of the low-starred foods. Any advice is appreciated.

  • Lauren

    Thanks, Mike. Feel silly for not noticing that sooner!

  • Hi Lauren… Look at the carb gauge in our yellow dashboard. We’ve already computed the number for you. Just to help you decide, estimated carbs for a kibble average about 48% on a dry matter basis. Hope this helps.

  • Lauren

    Does anyone know if this food is high in carbs? How does it compare, carb-wise, to Wellness Core?

  • Hi Della… Our reviews are based strictly upon the labeled ingredients and our estimate of meat content. The star ratings have nothing to do with expected results (including stool the size and quantity of an animal’s stools). We have no way of knowing how each dog will absorb or digest the numerous ingredient in a food.

    If you’re after smaller stools, you may wish to try feeding a food with a lower carbohydrate content. Hope this helps.

  • Della

    My dog loves the taste of the Alpha much better than the other Natural Balance flavors he has been on since he’s been with me the past two years! One issue I am having with the Alpha issss I am now picking up 5 piles of waste a day instead of his usual two. I thought the whole purpose of not feeding them cheap food is there’s less waste . What gives?

  • Hi Lauren… Each review contains a link that describes how we calculate carb content. You can find it in The Bottom Line section of the article. Hope this helps.

  • Lauren

    Can you tell me how you calculate the amount of carbs? I don’t see the info on the bag of food. Thank you so much.

  • Mike P

    I try to stay in the mid 30’s in carb content . I don’t understand if that is good or not . I guess higher protein and fat w/lowest carbs are better ?? I’m using before grain , fromm beef frattata, and wellness core in the rotation . Just got the fromm and 55$ for it . Looks like all the food went up about 5 bucks a bag..Yikes,I may have to get off the grain free if this continues . That would be ashame as the small pet shop I go to is a minute away from where I work .

  • Jonathan

    Don, the estimated carb content is 50%. There is no question that potato is the true first ingredient. But being that protein, fat, and carbs are all about “average”, I think the 4th star comes down to apparent quality. And considering that this food contains only one minor red-flag item, it seems to be a very good quality kibble.

  • Don Cutler

    Question: With chicken as the first ingredient, followed by potatoes, doesn’t that imply that there probably is more potatoes than chicken (dry matter)?
    This food must have a high glycemic profile. Should this really be a four-star food?
    I own a pet supply store, and it has been very difficult to get nutritional information from Natural Balance. I think that should taken into account when assigning ratings. One other thing: Check out the feeding guidelines! When you calculate the cost per kcal/cup, this is a very expensive food. Of course, that means you’d have to get the calorie information from the company, which took some effort.

  • Hi Sandra… According to Natural Balance Customer Service, all their products use ethoxyquin free fish meals.

  • Sandra

    I was interested myself in feeding this food and do find it strange that there is no calorie information on the bags or anywhere. If you have and overweight pet it helps to know how much to feed it or any dog based on the calories and such. Also It doesnt say whether their fish is shipped with ethoxyquin or not. I have emailed them about these things and am waiting on an answer. Does anyone know already if the do use it to ship the fish?

  • Hi Nicole… There are only 2 life stage ratings recognized by AAFCO (“growth and reproduction” or “adult maintenance”). But any food marketed for “all life stages” actually meets the profile for growth (puppies). As long as the dog food is rated for either “growth” or “all life stages”, it should be appropriate for a puppy.

    For more information, please visit our FAQ page and look for the topic, “AAFCO Nutrient Profiles”. Hope this helps.

  • Nicole

    Hi Mike,
    I have a 5 month old Border Collie. I’m just curious if feeding Natural Balance would be fine for a pup or not. Or should I be looking for something that says “puppy food”?
    Wondering how one food can work from puppyhood all throughout adulthood.

  • Scott Bennett

    Hi, Marise,
    I’m not sure what kind of dog you have, but I have a Boxer and at 7 years old he’s in fantastic health. I do feed him Natural Balance Ultra Premium, but only one cup a day at 1/2 cup at two meals, to that I add 2/3 cup rice, a little over 2/3 cup oatmeal 14.5 of a pound of chicken and most importantly, about an eighth cup of flaxseed that I grind into a fine mill using a coffee grinder. He has an extremely tempremental stomach, but this seems to work. He’s got a beautiful coat, bright eyes, beautiful gums and teeth and still has a lot of spunk.

    I hope this helps.

  • Hi Dawn… This is a common and unfortunate oversight on the part of some pet food companies. You may need to contact a company’s customer service department to get this information.

  • Dawn

    Hi Mike!

    I’m curious about something. I noticed that Natural Balance does not include calories per cup on their dry dog foods, either on their website or product bag. Is this unusual? I have small dogs and when comparing products I want to get some idea of the calories without having to call the company. What is your experience on this?

  • marise

    Well, I certainly got two points of view and I thank you both knowing you offered your best advice. Don’t really want to go ALL raw nor do I want a three star food. I’ll keep sharing my chicken but also give him a couple tablespoons 0f raw chicken.
    He’s full of energy and has a great coat on his current diet ,so maybe that is the best answer I will get. Thanks

  • Cathy

    REAL FOOD is the best feeding for dogs (REAL FOOD for people, too!). There is much information on the internet about feeding dogs REAL FOOD, either raw or cooked. I feed my big dog mostly raw food, predominately meat and organs. Here is a link that has some recipes, as well as some helpful hints on the advantage of REAL FOOD and getting deals on scrap meat from your local butcher:
    Included at that link is this tidbit – “BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food – or – Bones and Raw Food): Your dog is a wild animal that has been domesticated (some more than others). And, as with humans, any species’ best diet is its native one. And a dog’s native diet? MEAT.”
    If your dog has been eating kibble, it’s usually best to introduce REAL FOOD gradually over several weeks so the digestive system can get used to doing it’s real job!

  • Hi Marise… Thanks for trying to take such good care of your rescue dog. Unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinary professional, it would be misleading and inappropriate for me to answer your question with confidence. There are many less expensive dog foods that are rated 3-stars or higher. It can be quite difficult to beat the cost of feeding a pet when you make everything homemade. Wish I could be more help.

  • marise

    Hello, I have a med size mixed terrier breed rescue dog. Love him so much. I’m 84 yrs old. Does he need dog food ? It costs a lot . Can he just eat boiled chicken with broth, cooked oatmeal, and maybe boiled potatoes once in a while. I would give him one omega 3 capsule like I take. What would he be missing ? Should I add a dog vitamin?
    Truly, old people spend lots of money on dog food that is not really good for the dog. I need your advice. Thanks

  • Jonathan

    This is a pretty good food! But it’s funny… the NB rep was bragging about how this food is grain free but isn’t “way too high in protein like more grain free foods are”. What does he think he’s talking about? It’s apparent lower protein is holding it back from being a five-star food! I didn’t get to talk to him much about it, because when he said that, he wasn’t talking to me and I didn’t want to step on his toes. but next time I see him, I’ll have a word with him about what is species appropriate. 🙂