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Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dog Food Review (Dry)

Mike Sagman  Karan French

By

Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman

Founder

Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Karan French
Karan French

Karan French

Senior Researcher

Karan is a senior researcher at the Dog Food Advisor, working closely with our in-house pet nutritionist, Laura Ward, to give pet parents all the information they need to find the best food for their dog.

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Updated: June 7, 2024

Verified by Laura Ward

Laura Ward

Laura Ward

Pet Nutritionist

Laura studied BSc (Hons) Animal Science with an accreditation in Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, before working for eight years in the pet food and nutrition industry.

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Laura Ward

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Our Verdict

Rating:
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Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry product range is made up of 21 recipes with ratings varying from 2.5 to 4.5 stars. The average rating of the whole range is 3.5  stars.

The table below shows each recipe in this range including our rating and the AAFCO nutrient profile: Growth (puppy), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Duck and Potato Puppy 4 A
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Duck and Potato 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb and Brown Rice 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Duck and Brown Rice 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Salmon and Brown Rice 4.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Salmon and Brown Rice Puppy 4 A
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Chicken and Brown Rice Puppy 4.5 A
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Salmon and Sweet Potato 4 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Sweet Potato and Bison 2.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Sweet Potato and Venison 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Duck and Potato Small Breed Bites 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb and Brown Rice Large Breed 4 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb and Brown Rice Puppy 3.5 A
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Chicken and Sweet Potato 3 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Chicken and Brown Rice 4 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb and Brown Rice Small Breed 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Chicken and Sweet Potato Small Breed Bites 3 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Beef and Brown Rice 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Vegetarian Small Breed Bites U M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Beef and Brown Rice Small Breed 3.5 M
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Vegetarian U M

Recipe and Label Analysis

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Sweet Potato and Venison was selected to represent the other products in the line for detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain Free Sweet Potato and Venison

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

22.2%

Protein

11.1%

Fat

58.7%

CarbsCarbohydrates

Sweet potatoes, venison, potatoes, pea protein, potato protein, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), brewers dried yeast, dicalcium phosphate, natural flavor, salmon oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), flaxseed, calcium carbonate, potatoes, salt, DL-methionine, taurine, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), choline chloride, citric acid (preservative), mixed tocopherols (preservative), rosemary extract


Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%

Red denotes any controversial items

Estimated Nutrient Content
Method Protein Fat Carbs
Guaranteed Analysis 20% 10% NA
Dry Matter Basis 22% 11% 59%
Calorie Weighted Basis 21% 25% 54%

Ingredients Analysis

The first ingredient in this dog food is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The second ingredient is venison. Although it is a quality item, raw venison 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 third ingredient is potatoes. 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 fourth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

The next ingredient is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato.

Even though pea and potato proteins contain over 80% protein, these ingredients would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like these can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The fifth ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.

Yet others cite the fact that canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

The next item is brewers yeast, which can be a controversial ingredient. Although it’s a by-product of the beer making process, this ingredient is rich in minerals and other healthy nutrients.

Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.

Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular dog is allergic to the yeast itself.

In addition, a vocal minority insists yeast can increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat. However, this is a claim we’ve not been able to scientifically verify.

In any case, unless your dog is specifically allergic to it, yeast can still be considered a nutritious additive.

What’s more noteworthy here is that brewers yeast contains about 48% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

After the natural flavor, we find dicalcium phosphate, likely used here as a dietary calcium supplement.

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 Natural Balance product.

With six notable exceptions

First, we find 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.

Next, this recipe contains sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium. Sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.

Additionally, we note the use of dried potato products, the dried residue of the potato processing industry primarily consisting of potato pieces, peelings and culls.

With the exception of perhaps its caloric content and a small amount of protein, potato products are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.1

This recipe also includes taurine, an important amino acid associated with the healthy function of heart muscle. Although taurine is not typically considered essential in canines, some dogs have been shown to be deficient in this critical nutrient.

Since taurine deficiency appears to be more common in pets consuming grain-free diets, we view its presence in this recipe as a positive addition.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient looks like an average dry dog food.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 22%, a fat level of 11% and estimated carbohydrates of about 59%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 25% and a mean fat level of 12%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 55% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 49%.

Which means this Natural Balance product line contains…

Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to other dry kibbles.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea and potato proteins, brewers yeast and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a recipe containing a moderate amount of meat.

Natural Balance Dog Food Recall History

The following automated list (if present) includes all dog food recalls related to Natural Balance through June 2024.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls since 2009 here.

Our Rating of Natural Balance Dog Food

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry lists both grain-inclusive and grain-free dog foods. Most recipes use at least a moderate amount of named meat meals as their dominant source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.

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Recommended with Reservations

A Final Word

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