Natural Balance Ultra (Canned)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Natural Balance Ultra Premium canned dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Natural Balance Ultra Premium product line includes 5 canned dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

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.

  • Natural Balance Ultra Premium Beef [A]
  • Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb [A]
  • Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken [A]
  • Natural Balance Ultra Premium Liver (4.5 stars) [A]
  • Natural Balance Ultra Premium Vegetarian (not rated) [M]

Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb formula was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.

Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb Formula

Canned Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 36% | Fat = 23% | Carbs = 33%

Ingredients: Lamb broth, lamb, lamb liver, brown rice, potatoes, carrots, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dehydrated potatoes, oat bran, lamb meal, vitamins (l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid), sodium tripolyphosphate, minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), dried kelp, guar gum, salt, potassium chloride, natural smoke flavor, choline chloride, salmon oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), taurine, carrageenan, parsley flakes, Yucca schidigera extract, rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.8%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis8%5%NA
Dry Matter Basis36%23%33%
Calorie Weighted Basis29%44%26%
Protein = 29% | Fat = 44% | Carbs = 26%

The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb broth. Broths are of only modest nutritional value. Yet because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food, they are a common addition component in many canned products.

The second ingredient is lamb. Lamb is considered “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered” lamb and associated with skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1

Lamb is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.

The third ingredient is lamb liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The fourth 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 fifth ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The sixth ingredient lists carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The seventh 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 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 eighth ingredient is dried potato, a dehydrated item usually made from the by-products of potato processing. In most cases, dried potato can contain about 10% dry matter protein which can affect our estimate of the total meat content of this recipe.

The ninth ingredient is oat bran, a nutritious by-product obtained from milling whole grain oats. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, vitamins and minerals.

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 have much of an effect on the overall rating of this product.

With three notable exceptions

First, carrageenan is a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there does appear to be some recent controversy regarding its long term biological safety.

Next, this food includes lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.

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.

Natural Balance Ultra Premium Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Ultra Premium looks like an above-average wet 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 36%, a fat level of 23% and estimated carbohydrates of about 33%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 38% and a mean fat level of 23%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 32% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 61%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-average carbs as compared to a typical canned dog food.

Even when you consider the mild protein-boosting effect of the dried potato, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a moderate amount of meat, excluding the Vegetarian recipe.

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Ultra Premium is a meat-based canned dog food using a moderate amount of named meats 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.

Those looking for a kibble from the same product line may wish to visit our review of Natural Balance Ultra dry dog food.

Natural Balance Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

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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Dog Food Coupons
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Special FDA Alert

The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

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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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Notes and Updates

05/07/2018 Last Update

  1. Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor and based upon the official definition for beef published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition