Nutro Puppy (Cups)

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Rating: ★★★★½

Nutro Puppy dog food cups receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.

The Nutro Puppy product line includes two recipe cups.

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.

  • Nutro Puppy Tender Chicken and Rice [G]
  • Nutro Puppy Tender Beef and Vegetable [G]

Nutro Puppy Tender Beef and Vegetable recipe was selected to represent both products in the line for this review.

Nutro Puppy Tender Beef and Vegetable Recipe

Canned Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 50% | Fat = 22% | Carbs = 20%

Ingredients: Beef broth, beef, beef liver, chicken, wheat gluten, pork plasma, corn starch, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried peas, dried carrots, ground rice, salt, tricalcium phosphate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, caramel color, brewers dried yeast, fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), xanthan gum, dl-methionine, guar gum, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, zinc oxide, chicory pulp, sodium ascorbate, choline chloride, taurine, beta carotene, l-carnitine, copper proteinate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), potassium iodide, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2)

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5.6%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis9%4%NA
Dry Matter Basis50%22%20%
Calorie Weighted Basis40%44%16%
Protein = 40% | Fat = 44% | Carbs = 16%

The first ingredient in this dog food is beef 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 beef. Beef is defined as “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle” and includes skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1

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

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

The fourth ingredient is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1

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

The fifth ingredient is wheat gluten. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once wheat has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.

Although wheat gluten contains 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 pork plasma. Plasma is what remains of blood after the blood cells themselves have been removed. Plasma can be considered a nutritious addition.

The seventh ingredient is corn starch, a starchy powder extracted from the endosperm found at the heart of a kernel of corn. Corn starch is most likely used here to thicken the broth into a gravy.

Corn starch isn’t a true red flag item. Yet we’ve highlighted here for those wishing to avoid corn-based ingredients.

The eighth ingredient is 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.

The ninth ingredient lists dried peas. Dried peas are a good source of carbohydrates. Plus they’re naturally rich in dietary fiber.

However, dried peas contain about 27% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

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, caramel is a natural coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.

However, the concentrated version of this ingredient commonly known as caramel coloring has been more recently considered controversial and found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.3

In any case, even though caramel is considered safe by the FDA, we’re always disappointed to find any added coloring in a pet food.

That’s because coloring is used to make the product more appealing to humans — not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his food is?

Next, brewers yeast can be a controversial item. 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.

In addition, chicory pulp is what remains of chicory root once all the healthy inulin has been extracted.

This agricultural by-product is more typically associated with cattle feeds and is most likely used here for its digestible dietary fiber.

And lastly, with the exception of copper, the minerals listed here do not appear to be chelated. And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.

Nutro Puppy Dog Food Cups
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Puppy dog food cups looks like an 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 50%, a fat level of 22% and estimated carbohydrates of about 20%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 50% and a mean fat level of 22%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 20% for the overall product line.

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

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical wet dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the wheat gluten, dried peas and brewers yeast, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a notable amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutro Puppy is a meat-based wet dog food using a notable amount of named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 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.

Nutro 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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Notes and Updates

08/14/2017 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  3. Consumer Reports February 2014