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Pet parents typically would want to give the highest possible quality of pet food for their dogs without necessarily draining their family’s financial resources. One of the most often recommended brands of dog food is Natural Balance. In this Natural Balance dog food review, we’ll make a comprehensive analysis of what makes this pet food brand a good choice to provide for your pet’s optimum nutritional needs. Towards the end of this review, we’ll reveal whether Natural Balance dog food is worth every penny you spend.
A Quick Overview of 5 Natural Balance Dog Food Recipes
Natural Balance L.I.D. Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula
*Ratings are from Amazon, Chewy, and PetSmart at the time of publication and can change
Best Overall: Natural Balance L.I.D. Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula
This Natural Balance LID dog food in sweet potato and fish formulation is one of the brand’s best-selling products especially for those who prefer giving their pets with healthier carbs and fish-based proteins. The savory taste of salmon and menhaden fish should help bring your pet up to speed in terms of its need for DHA and EPA while the limited ingredient formulation exposes pets to only a few ingredients at a time.
It’s one of those canine meals that are best indicated when subjecting a hound to an elimination diet, fully taking care of its calorie, protein, and fat needs while also ensuring it still receives all the nutrients it requires. The Natural balance Limited Ingredient dog food presents a good and practical alternative to other LID brands, especially since it comes with near-ideal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. It’s ideal for hounds with food allergies or with hypersensitive tummies whether they’re puppies, adults, or seniors.
Calories for every serving: 350 per cup
Minimum % of crude protein: 21%
Minimum % of crude fat: 10%
Maximum % of moisture: 10%
Maximum % of fiber: 5%
Top five ingredients: sweet potatoes, menhaden fish meal, salmon, canola oil, and potato protein
Best Gluten-Free: Natural Balance Original Ultra Chicken & Barley Formula
If whole body nutrition is what you’re after then the Natural Balance’s ULTRA formulation is a good choice. It’s made with gluten-free ingredients and beefed up with all the right amounts of EPA and DHA with added manganese and zinc to support your pet’s total body health. Healthy fruits like blueberries and cranberries with the addition of spinach provide your hound with antioxidants for improved immune and cardiovascular functioning while the oat fiber helps enhance digestion.
Its special formulation helps support your growing pet as it goes through the various stages of its life and development. This Natural Balance dry dog food provides a good balance of essential nutrients and premium quality proteins – both animal- and plant- based – to give your hound the complete nutrition it needs.
Calories for every serving: 410 per cup
Minimum % of crude protein: 23%
Minimum % of crude fat: 13%
Maximum % of moisture: 10%
Maximum % of fiber: 3%
Top five ingredients: chicken and chicken meal, potatoes, peas, and chicken fat
With duck meal, menhaden fish oil, flaxseed, prebiotics, taurine, lysine
Best Vegan: Natural Balance Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
Formulated especially for the dog whose vegetarian pet parent wants his or her canine friend to go vegetarian as well, the Natural Balance dog food Vegetarian Formula comes with the best selection of healthier grains mixed with lentils, greens, and fruits. Since there are certain amino acids like taurine and lysine that are not readily found in plant products, Natural Balance has included these nutrients as supplements to help create a more complete nutrient profile.
Taking the helm of its ingredients is brown rice, one of the world’s healthiest grains and beefed up with oats, barley, and peas. And since the formula is essentially plant-based it has increased amounts of B-vitamins which can help promote optimum metabolism for your pet. It’s definitely the best choice for vegetarian and vegan pet parents who may be wary about meats contaminated with salmonella or some other microorganism.
Calories for every serving: 365 per cup
Minimum % of crude protein: 18%
Minimum % of crude fat: 8%
Maximum % of moisture: 10%
Maximum % of fiber: 4%
Top five ingredients: brown rice, barley, oat groats, peas, and potato protein
Best for Overweight Dogs: Natural Balance Fat Dogs Chicken & Salmon Low Calorie Formula
At 300 calories per cup, the Fat Dogs Natural Balance dog food isn’t exactly the lowest calorie dog food you can find in the market since there are plenty of others that can lay to such a claim. However, what pet parents love about this low-calorie Natural Balance dry dog food is that it features two of the best-tasting meals that your pet can ever have – chicken and salmon.
The low calorie diet is especially geared for controlling the weight of hounds that are already considered overweight or to help prevent obesity in those that are at an increased risk for such a condition. The addition of l-carnitine works well with its low fat content as this amino acid is best known for ramping up metabolic rate to help burn more calories. Of course, adding physical activities or exercise to the mix should help your pet achieve a more-or-less ideal body weight than with diet alone.
Best Canned Option: Natural Balance L.I.D. Sweet Potato Canned Dog Food
This Natural Balance canned dog food is perfect for pets that are going through an elimination diet to help pinpoint potential allergens in its food. This version of the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient dog food comes with healthy sweet potatoes and equally-rich and nutritious, not to mention luscious, venison. Unlike other canned preparations, this Natural Balance LID dog food uses the very same broth upon which the venison has been cooked in, infusing the delicious goodness of the meat into the meal.
Adding to the tummy-friendly nature of the Natural Balance canned dog food is the exclusion of allergenic grains especially those that contain gluten. What your pet gets are ingredients that are very easy to digest and possess the right amounts of nutrients for your pet’s all-life stage requirements.
In 1989, actor Dick Van Patten established the Natural Balance Pet Foods company with the goal of providing the finest food consumers can buy for their respective pets. It has its headquarters in Burbank, Los Angeles, CA. The main idea was to create pet foods that contained no fillers, no by-products, no soy, no corn, and no wheat. This has been the credo of the brand and one that it intends to keep forever.
Natural Balance Pet Foods formulates both pet food formulations and zoological formulations, the latter of which are used in many famous zoos like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. It is also the official dog food of the ATF for its service dogs in the Arson Investigation and Explosives Detection Unit.
The company has not been immune to controversies. In 2007, the brand was rocked by allegations of melamine contamination in some of its products resulting in the development of kidney failures in a number of pets. A more serious concern was the botulism outbreak which, thankfully, none were associated with the brand’s pet foods. In 2010 and 2012, the brand again recalled some of its products for fear of salmonella contamination.
Where Is Natural Balance Dog Food Made?
Back in 2013, Natural Balance and Del Monte Pet Foods merged. However, after being passed around between various corporations, it is now owned by Nexus Capital Management LP, after being sold again in 2021. The headquarters for this is in Burbank, Los Angeles, California.
Originally, the dog foods were made in California. However, these days, it appears that the different types of dog food from Natural Balance are distributed from their San Francisco branch. They no longer state where the food is manufactured, nor do they clearly state where their ingredients are sourced from.
However, when the company was bought again, the Vice President of Sales Brian Connelly released a statement to Just Food, saying that “The brand is back and reclaiming its roots.” We hope this also means that the food is returning to US sources for ingredients, and the manufacturing process clearly returns to the US, too.
Where Do They Source Ingredients From?
It’s difficult to pin down where Natural Balance source the ingredients for their dog foods. Mostly, this is simply due to the different types of animal protein, which need to be sourced appropriately.
For example, the fish oil (including salmon oil) and sweet potatoes are believed to come from Canada. While this isn’t based in the USA, the high-quality protein is sourced from the right locations, offering you greater peace of mind when it comes to your dog food.
Similarly, some ingredients in specific Natural Balance recipes are reliant on US-based ingredients. As such, this fresh food is perfect for your pup – whether they prefer sweet potato, duck meal, brown rice, or pea protein.
However, some of the ingredients in the Natural Balance dog foods are sourced from China. While this may not affect some of the ingredients, many owners are wary of feeding their dogs pet food with ingredients from China.
If you’re at all concerned about the best dog foods for your canine companion, the best thing to do would be to call their customer support team. Here, you can ask them for the specifics, relating to the product line you’re interested in, on 800-829-4493.
Product Lines – Differences and Which One You Should Choose
Easily the most popular option, the Limited Ingredient Diets has regularly hit top spots in lists for many years, now. Not only do vets love the Natural Balance L.I.D Limited, but dog food reviews consistently rate this option as being one of the best dry dog food options on the market.
Why? Because this pet food offers a range of health benefits at a great cost. Not only does it promote healthy skin and promote healthy digestion, but this is also some of the only food to work alongside dogs with food sensitivities. Not only will it help dog owners to keep their canine companions at a healthy weight, but their shiny coat and ample energy will keep your dog happy and healthy.
This dog food is grain-free and uses no fillers, making it easier for a sensitive stomach to digest. Meanwhile, the Limited Ingredient Diets offer plenty of healthy carbohydrates, alongside natural flavors and balanced nutrition. Similarly, this pet food offers plenty of appropriate animal protein, which is often packed with omega fatty acids.
With all of this, packed into each bowl of good dog food, it’s no surprise that dog food reviews consistently rate this as one of their favorite Natural Balance recipes. If you’re looking for grain-free food for limited ingredient diets, then look no further for your furry friend.
Original Ultra is another old favorite of dog food reviews, albeit an older composition. This food focuses on providing your pup with a grain-free formula that uses ingredients from high-quality sources, based in the US.
Suitable for all life stages, Natural Balance have focused on the proteins in this recipe. It comes small breed bites and for large breed dogs, too – all while remaining grain-free and delicious. Packed with omega fatty acids, the only downside to this option is that it’s based almost entirely around chicken as the main ingredient.
These Natural Balance recipes are designed for picky pets and can be used as a topper for your dog’s grain-free main meal – or as standalone dog treats. Perfect for any dog, fresh food is usually the top choice for pups – but Delectable Delights easily comes as a good second choice.
Smaller portions are offered, making this a good alternative to the small breed bites. However, that also means it can be a little too small for some breeds. As such, the dog food review sections will often reflect this disappointment!
The Targeted Nutrition range from Natural Balance is based entirely around the health needs commonly seen in dogs. For this option, it’s not enough to have brown rice, pea protein, sweet potato or any other commonly positive ingredient included on the list – it’s about changing the entire recipe to provide balanced nutrition specific to those needs.
So, for active dogs, you can choose the On the Move dry dog food, while overweight dogs can enjoy the low calorie formula. And, as always, the food remain grain-free and offers ample health benefits alongside their main goal, too.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Ingredients
A number of Natural Balance dog food review articles offer a very mixed picture of the quality of the brand’s ingredients. On one end of the spectrum are those saying that it is mostly a carbohydrate-based canine diet that goes against the very fundamentals of canine nutrition. On the other end of the debate table are those that say it’s the quality of the ingredients that matter, deflecting allegations of a diet that is more reflective of a human vegetarian rather than an omnivorous animal. As such, the analysis of its ingredients can be interpreted in either of two ways – whether you’re a firm believer of the primacy of animal ingredients in dog diets or you’re more into vegetarianism or veganism.
Below Average Proteins
When taken as a whole, Natural Balance dog food products combine for an average of 25.85% proteins on a dry matter weight basis. This is for the average of both the dry and canned dog food products we have listed in this Natural Balance dog food review. Natural Balance dry dog food products alone contain about 22% proteins on average, translating to a dry matter content of 24.44%.
For the Natural Balance canned dog food, its protein content is 6% converted to 27.3% as dry matter. While the protein levels are at par with AAFCO standards we’ve seen dog food products with much better protein profiles often reaching in the high-30s to the mid-40s as dry matter.
Protein is very important for dogs as this provides the necessary building blocks for their development and growth. And while the protein levels of this brand are well above the minimum AAFCO requirements, they still pale in comparison to other products.
Perhaps the most controversial of all is the fact that the majority of Natural Balance dog food formulations feature plant proteins as their principal ingredient. What is quite astonishing is the use of potato protein as well as flaxseed in their formulation. These two can surely boost protein levels leading us to believe that there’s not really much meat in the formulations of Natural Balance. What they have are synthesized plant proteins like the one you put into your protein shake.
This goes against what we have been espousing for so long: a canine diet that puts primacy to animal proteins as its main ingredient. Of course, there will be people who will disagree with us. But, given the fact that only 5% of the US population is strictly vegetarian and another 2% are vegans, this goes to show that the remaining 93% are omnivorous like our pets. Again, this is just our personal opinion based on what we know so far about optimum canine diets.
We’re not saying that these plant ingredients should not be included in the formulation of dog food. They are necessary since they also provide a variety of nutrients that can supplement those found in meats. But the thing is that we don’t necessarily agree with an animal protein being relegated to a supporting role when it should be at the top. But that’s just us.
On a positive note, Natural Balance dog food does supplement its formulations with taurine and lysine, two of the amino acids that are not readily found in plant sources.
Below Average Fats
The fat content of Natural Balance dog food is 18.2% and 10.7% for its canned and dry food varieties, respectively. These are based on dry matter content. This is something that we’d say we can strongly agree with since we don’t want our dogs to grow obese because of a high-fat diet. However, it is barely at the minimum levels for fats according to the AAFCO guidelines. This can have implications on the coat health of dogs as well as their ability to produce hormones.
Above-Average to High Carbs
Having computed the dry protein and fat content of Natural Balance dog food formulations, we can safely assume that its carbohydrate content is more than simply above average. Natural Balance canned dog food formulations can contain about 54.5% carbohydrates while its dry dog food variants can contain a whopping 64.86% as dry matter.
Again, we’d like to emphasize that we’re not against the inclusion of carbs in the diet of dogs. Given that ancestral diets rely mainly on raw animals for food, their natural diet typically contains about 70 to 80 percent moisture. The remaining 20 to 30 percent of prey animals are actually composed of proteins and fats.
Now, let us say that dogs will occasionally forage in the bushes and eat fruits, root crops, and other vegetables they can chance upon, these will still comprise roughly 20 to 30 percent of their diet.
Of course one can always say that dogs have already evolved that they can readily eat whatever we decide to give to them. However, understanding their anatomy can point to one inescapable fact; dogs are physiologically more inclined to eat meats – bone and all – than plants.
But if you’re a vegetarian and strongly believe that your hound should also be vegetarian, Natural Balance should definitely be a great choice.
There were several nutrients that we did not find in our product list: glucosamine, chondroitin, and probiotics. While it is understandable that these are not generally considered as nutrients since you won’t find them in the AAFCO guidelines, these substances have become three of the cornerstones of optimum canine health.
Additionally, we noted that Natural Balance dog food has to supplement its formulations with nutrients primarily because its ingredients do not possess the right amounts of such nutrients if any at all. As such it is often necessary to include individual units of nutrients in the mix instead of relying solely on the main ingredients.
Natural Balance Dog Food Recall History
The most recent recall for Natural Balance dog food was in May 2021. Here, a single “best by” date of Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Chicken Formula dry cat food was recalled because of the potential for salmonella contamination.
Just under a year earlier, in July 2020, one lot of Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Liver Paté Formula canned cat food was found to contain possible elevated levels of choline chloride. While this was not applicable to dog food, it could be dangerous or even fatal if fed to cats.
Prior to this, there was a long period without any recalls, which is impressive for dog food companies!
In May 2012 and June 2010, the brand experienced recalls because of potential salmonella contamination. In 2012, the recall came as a part of a wider recall of various brands that had been manufactured at a Diamond Pet Foods facility. Both of these, however, were limited only to the dry dog food options.
Back in July 2007, a few Natural Balance “Eatables” canned dog foods were recalled because botulinum had been found in some human food, which was made in the same Castleberry’s Food Company plant. “We believe we have isolated the issue to a situation of under-processing on one line of our production facility,” said a Castleberry’s official, who noted, “We have shut down this line altogether and are recalling all products produced on it.”
Why Choose This Brand?
Pet parents who are absolutely wary of gluten allergies in their dogs can rest assured that Natural Balance dog food formulations will not give their hounds upset tummies or other signs of food allergies. The brand has remained faithful to its founding ideals that good pet food shouldn’t contain any of these ingredients.
Natural Balance dog food also adheres to the nutrition guidelines for canines set by the AAFCO. While there are other pet food brands that can provide much better nutrient profiles, the brand still adheres to these guidelines so you can expect that you’re giving your pet what it really needs; at the very least the bare essentials.
For vegetarian and vegan parents, Natural Balance is always a wise choice since a number of its formulations come with less animal ingredients than other pet food brands. In some of its formulations, plant proteins take the lead instead of animal proteins.
How Much Does Natural Balance Food Cost?
The answer to this depends on what type and where you’re buying your Natual Balance from. Wet foods tend to cost a little more, which is par for the course when it comes to wet food. Meanwhile, the kibble options are very fairly priced and offer good value for money. Dry dog food starts at roughly $20 for 4 pounds – and this price provides better value for money, the larger your purchase.
Where Can I Buy Natural Balance Dog Food?
You can find Natural Balance dog foods at all reputable pet stores. However, if you prefer to compare prices and shop online, it’s worth knowing that you can get this dog food online. Most notably, Amazon and Chewy regularly have different types of Natural Balance in stock.
As well as this, PetSmart also has the Natal Balance Limited Ingredient Diets in stock, as well as a few other dog food types. All three of these come with the benefits of providing Natural Balance reviews from real-world customers.
What We Like About It
Uses premium quality ingredients in many formulations
Adheres to the recommended nutrient requirements for dogs established by AAFCO
Provides specialty diets such as vegetarian and limited ingredient diets for certain dogs
Includes fish oil or some other sources in some of its formulations
Gluten-free formulations for healthier tummies and fewer food allergies
What We Don’t Like About It
Mostly plant-based proteins
A greater proportion of carbohydrates in the formulation
Includes nutrient supplementation in its formulation
History of voluntary product recalls
In a Nutshell, Is Natural Balance a Good Choice?
Natural Balance dog food is best geared for pet parents who don’t mind giving their pets more carbohydrates than proteins. The good news is that the brand has an extensive range of dog food products so it’s all a matter of choosing the best one to suit your dog’s needs.
A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.