Natural Balance Vegetarian (Dry)

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.

The Natural Balance Vegetarian product line includes one dry dog food, a recipe claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient guidelines for adult maintenance.

Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 20% | Fat = 9% | Carbs = 63%

Ingredients: Brown rice, oatmeal, cracked pearled barley, peas, potato protein, canola oil, potatoes, tomato pomace, vegetable flavoring, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, flaxseed, potassium chloride, choline chloride, taurine, natural mixed tocopherols, spinach, parsley flakes, cranberries, l-lysine, l-carnitine, Yucca schidigera extract, kelp, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B-1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B-6), vitamin B-12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B-2), vitamin D-2 supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis18%8%NA
Dry Matter Basis20%9%63%
Calorie Weighted Basis19%21%60%
Protein = 19% | Fat = 21% | Carbs = 60%

The first ingredient in this dog food 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 second ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.

The third ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

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

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

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

The sixth 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 seventh 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 eighth ingredient is tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.

Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.

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

After the vegetable flavoring, we find calcium carbonate, likely used here as a dietary mineral 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 product.

With three notable exceptions

First, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

Next, we find 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.

Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Natural Balance Vegetarian is by design a meatless dog food.

So, although we do recognize the need for some dog owners to provide (for whatever reason) a completely meat-free diet, we also respect a dog’s natural carnivorous bias.

For this reason, the highest rating awarded any vegetarian dog food found on this website can never exceed 2.5 stars.

That said, and before we determine our final rating, it’s still important to estimate how much plant-based protein might be present.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 20%, a fat level of 9% and estimated carbohydrates of about 63%.

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

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

Bottom line?

Natural Balance Vegetarian is a plant-based dry dog food using modest amount of potato protein as its main source of protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.

Not 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.

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.

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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.

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Notes and Updates

05/18/2017 Last Update