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.
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 byproducts, 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.
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 a 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.
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 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 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 the 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 its ability to produce hormones.
- Above average to high carbs
Having computed for 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 which typically contain about 70 to 80 percent moisture, the remaining 20 to 30 percent of prey animals is actually composed of proteins and fats. Now, let us say that dogs will occasionally forage in the bushes and eat fruits, rootcrops, 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.
Pros & Cons
- 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
- Friendly price
- Mostly plant-based proteins
- Greater proportion of carbohydrates in the formulation
- Includes nutrient supplementation in its formulation
- History of voluntary product recalls
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.