Nutro Natural Choice (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★½☆

Nutro Natural Choice Dog Food earns the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.

The Nutro Natural Choice product line includes 14 dry dog foods, ten claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance, two for all life stages, and two for growth.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Natural Choice Toy Breed Adult
  • Natural Choice Small Breed Adult
  • Natural Choice Large Breed Adult
  • Natural Choice Small Breed Senior
  • Natural Choice Lite with Lamb (3 stars)
  • Natural Choice Large Breed Young Adult
  • Natural Choice High Endurance (4 stars)
  • Natural Choice Lite with Chicken (3 stars)
  • Natural Choice Toy Breed Senior (4 stars)
  • Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy (4 stars)
  • Natural Choice Large Breed Senior (3 stars)
  • Natural Choice Small Breed Puppy (4 stars)
  • Natural Choice Large Breed Weight Management (3 stars)
  • Natural Choice Small Breed Adult Weight Management (4 stars)

Nutro Natural Choice Small Breed Adult was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nutro Natural Choice Small Breed Adult

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 27% | Fat = 17% | Carbs = 49%

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), whole grain oatmeal, pea protein, dried plain beet pulp, natural flavor, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), soybean oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, taurine, dl-methionine, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), zinc sulfate, biotin, niacin supplement, marigold extract, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), copper proteinate, iron proteinate, selenium yeast, vitamin B12 supplement, l-carnitine, manganese proteinate, vitamin A supplement, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract, decaffeinated green tea extract, spearmint extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.6%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis24%15%NA
Dry Matter Basis27%17%49%
Calorie Weighted Basis23%35%42%
Protein = 23% | Fat = 35% | Carbs = 42%

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 chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The third 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 fourth ingredient includes brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fifth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

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

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

The eighth ingredient is 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.

After the natural flavor, we find sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3’s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.

Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.

There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With four notable exceptions

First, soybean oil is red flagged here only due to its rumored (yet unlikely) link to canine food allergies.

However, since soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids and contains no omega-3’s, it’s considered less nutritious than flaxseed oil or a named animal fat.

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

In addition, 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.

And lastly, this recipe includes selenium yeast. Unlike the more common inorganic form of selenium (sodium selenite), this natural yeast supplement is considered a safer anti-cancer alternative.

Nutro Natural Choice Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Natural Choice Dog Food looks like an 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 27%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 49%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 28% and a mean fat level of 15%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 49% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 55%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea protein, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutro Natural Choice is a plant-based dry dog food using a below-average amount of chicken meal or lamb as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.

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.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

However, we do receive a fee from Chewy.com 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

08/09/2014 Last Update

  • Nicile

    This is rather interesting because we have a golden too and have recently started having issues with throwing her food up. Ive been trying to pin point what in routine is causing this sudden change (after a vet visit as well) and i am starting to think its worth trying to transition her to a different food

  • Matt Reynolds

    I do have questions about the quality of the protein provided by Nutro, and I will be branching out in foods for our newest rescue, a pure GSD. That being said, I have used Nutro foods for at least the last 10 years and I can’t complain about the overall results. My large shepherd/ Rottie mix lived until the age of 16 and was sharp of mind and smooth of coat until the end. My shelter mix is now 17 and has never shown any adverse effects.

  • Kristin

    Thank you for your thoughts :) – We immediately switched to Orijen and his health not only picked back up, but his coat and teeth improved beyond that. We’ve since tried raw, and home cooked which both have obvious advantages. However, it can be tricky making sure they have a balanced an complete diet. Definitely takes more work than pouring a bowl of kibble. Our newest addition, a rescue, can’t seem to stomach raw, so we’ll actually be switching him to Orijen next week to try it out, which is what brought me back to this site.

  • Pitlove

    So sorry to hear about what happened to your dog with Nutro. What is he eating now?

  • Kristin

    I’m late to the party here.. But ALL of the “boutique”, independent pet stores in my city will return ANY pet food for a full refund if it doesn’t work out. Like, even when it’s half empty. I was actually told that they have a full refund return process with the manufacturers too, so they have no issues taking it back.

    I know it’s not the same as grabbing 10 sample pouches and trying them out risk free, but it certainly takes the risk out of shelling out money on a full bag, only to have your pup turn it’s nose up.

  • Kristin

    From personal experience, I can’t in good conscience recommend Nutro or even refrain from leaving a comment here. We transitioned to Nutro Natural Choice dry food when staff at Petsmart sang it’s praises to my husband. Gradual transition, small amounts mixed with previous food, and eventually on Nutro solely. While there was minor stomach upset during the transition, we weren’t worried.

    After a week on Nutro full-time, our dog became lethargic, was acting peculiar, desperately panting and wasn’t drinking. Then he passed blood in his stool. 3 times in the span of two hours, before we rushed to the emergency vet. The entire visit he was vomiting and passing completely loose/bloody stool, while obviously in distress. It shocked us to hear the vet immediately tell us to stop feeding him Nutro just at the name of the brand. This was not this vet’s first encounter with Nutro causing such a reaction in canine OR feline patients.

    We switched to bland, cooked diet until we got in to our regular vet who ALSO went wide eyed when we said Nutro. Suffice to say, our vet vehemently agreed with the emerg vet.

    After this fiasco, I did very simple searches online and found SO many similar and even tragic stories about Nutro. I also found a huge number of historical recalls for the brand, and an equally huge volume of consumer complaints about Nutro.

    Is every other big name dog food brand free from recalls? No.
    Do some dogs just not do well with some foods? Sure.
    Is your pet’s health and well-being worth the risk, just because the name is big, the price is low, and it’s easy to find? Not a chance.

  • Kate

    I have fed Nutro to my golden retriever since she was a tiny puppy, and we loved it. She would throw up yellow bile occasionally, but we had her checked out at the vet, and they thought she just needed to eat more often. We then got a rescue dog with some food allergies, so I started researching grain free foods for him, and came across many reviews for Nutro that mentioned the periodic bile vomiting. We changed our Golden to a different brand, and she hasn’t thrown up since! I really liked this brand (soft, shiny coat, lots of energy, she loved the taste, good price, etc) , but won’t buy again because of this issue.

  • Rosie Marie Lester

    I have a Huskey Lab mix , we just bought this for for him today, he’s quite the picky eater so I hope this one will work out for him !! Wish me luck !!!

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Mary-

    Sorry to hear about your dogs’ digestive upset. I like to use Perfect Form made by The Honest Kitchen when my dogs are transitioning to a new food or experience upset due to some unknown reason.

    http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/perfect-form

    I didn’t know Nutro changed their formulas, but hopefully over time, your dogs can get accustomed to it unless there is some type of intolerance to the new ingredients.

    Another site that I refer to for ideas to help with occasional digestive upsets is: http://www.dogaware.com/health/digestive.html

    I hope this helps!

  • Mary Crouch

    My dogs have been eating nutro Lamb and Rice 1+ year for years and I loved it. Just recently have experienced the soft stools, throw up, etc. I took them to the vet for tests and they found nothing. I started reading about the food, fat content and learned Nutro changed the formula and many dogs are experiencing the same. Nutro should change the formula back!!!

  • aquariangt

    I hope you were lying when you called yourself a pet nutritionist. Otherwise people are paying you for some bunk info. Really, catch up on research and science on canine nutrition before spouting this nonsense

  • el doctor

    Hi Ania

    You wrote;
    “I see this as a perfectly balanced food made with great, high quality ingredients.

    Chicken meal is made of the waste and rejects from the human food chain. It is overly processed in rendering plants, whose products are never fit for human consumption.

    Meat meals are a great way for the big food conglomerates to make use of products that would normally be thrown out if they couldn’t be used in dog food.

    Brewers rice is a waste product of the human food (and beverage) industry.

    How did you come to the conclusion that this food is made from “high quality” ingredients?

  • Ania

    I am a pet nutritionist and I think that this is a fantastic product. In the review they mention concerns about average protein content, but that’s exactly what you want as your standard: average, more or less depending on the size and age of your dog (but there are large/small breed formulas, and also puppy/senior). Too much protein can actually be detrimental, especially for larger dogs. Amino acids unused in the body get burned as energy, which is basically just an expensive way of doing the same thing that fat/carbs will do. Fat provides more energy per calorie than protein does. More is not necessarily better and I see this as a perfectly balanced food made with great, high quality ingredients.

  • mahoraner niall

    is this a good food?

  • Linda Lukas Cosgrove

    I have two Rhodesian Ridgeback’s and two small rescue poodle mixes. I have had them on Nutro limited ingredient lamb and rice from the time we got them and they have done great on it! Just make sure you feed your big dogs a large breed formula, your little ones on a small bite/breed formula and your seniors senior food. One of our ridgebacks is 11 years old and she still goes two to three miles a day and loves it! My daughter has a pit/pointer mix with a very temperamental digestive system… we tried several different “premium” brands with only more issues. The only food she has thrived on has been the Nutro grain free duck and chickpea formula…she came alive after we started feeding her that and her coat is unbelievable!

  • Denise

    My aussie shepherd is 8 months old & has been on nutro lamb & rice for large breed puppies since i got him at 3 months old. He is very healthy, his coat is soft & easy to brush, & his poop factor is a 1 (he only poops once a day & its firm). The one, & only time I have ever had a problem with him was when he got into my cats food.
    I think that people forget that table foods, a different flavor, eating another pets food or even eating grass will cause stomach problems. If you are changing up their diet, you have to do it slowly.

  • DogFoodie

    You should only buy the size bag of dry food that you’ll use up completely within a couple of weeks. The fats in dry food begin to go rancid as soon as you open the bag. If the food isn’t properly stored, the problem gets worse more quickly.

    It’s not like we’re talking about a stake box of cereal. We’re talking about rancid animal fats.

    Hope your pups improve quickly.

  • C. C

    I have a 4 and 2yr old yorkie who have been eating nutro since they were 6 months old. Last month I bought a very large bag if Nutro smallbreed adult, chicken, rice and oatmeal. Last Thursday one dog suddenly has explosive diarrhea, that would not quit, I took her to the vet and and after medication and an IV she was placed on a prescription diet and probiotics. Friday night the second dog was throwing up all over the place and had extreme diarrhea as well. Saturday afternoon he went to the vet and is on the same diet and medication as the first dog. The first dog is so dehydrated from all of this that she has had a total of 3 IV and the diarrhea just went away 1 week later for her. Hasnt stopped yet for him. I also thought that it had to be the nutro. About 6 months ago my 4 yr old atayed with my parents he had his breakfast went out side to play and later was taking a nap. My parents say he work up vomittting and pppping everywhere! I always send him to their house with nutro! After their stomachs clear, I hate to say it but I am giving up on nutro. .

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