Natural Balance was founded by actor, businessman and animal advocate Dick van Patten in 1989. According to its founder, Patten wanted to make a food that was based on ‘scientific principles and truth, not marketing hype.’
The company makes several different lines for dogs including Limited Ingredient Diets, a high protein selection called Wild Pursuits, Ultra Whole Body Health and even a vegetarian option. They produce varieties designed for dogs of all life stages and breeds from small to large. Natural Balance also makes zoological formulas, as well, that are not available to the public.
Natural Balance offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee with all of their formulas, carrying their ‘Buy with Confidence’ trademark on every product. The company has taken safety very seriously in recent years after being involved in a major recall for dangerous contamination. In 2007, Natural Balance was one of several brands that had to pull pet food from the shelves due to the presence of melamine, a fatal toxin, in a batch of rice protein that had been delivered to pet food manufacturer American Nutrition, Inc. The recalls left a mark on a lot of major brands, though most of them pointed fingers at the supplier and manufacturer.
One thing that we can really applaud Natural Balance for is that in the aftermath of these recalls, they invested around $800,000 to create their own laboratories that test for multiple potential contaminants. What’s more, they made all lab results available to consumers and launched their Buy with Confidence guarantee. Some company representatives have said that Natural Balance ingredients are actually human grade quality, which is far superior to feed grade by leaps and bounds. However, this has not been independently verified.
Natural Balance dog food reviews from consumers are largely positive. The labels reflect the company’s commitment to using only natural ingredients and absolutely no by-products, corn, wheat or soy. Most of their varieties also have high levels of healthy oils from sources like flaxseed, as well as a fair mix of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants. A downside to their ingredients is that they do not use probiotics, which are prevalent in most top quality dog foods. They do use alternative ingredients such as beet pulp, inulin, chicory root and similar that are thought to be high in fiber and very beneficial to digestion.
We also found that some of their lines contain DL-methionine. This is a safe albeit manmade version of the essential amino acid methionine, which is naturally occurring in meat protein. The presence of this supplement suggests that even though the food may have a high protein content, the protein may be coming largely from plants rather than meat. Meat protein is better for dogs overall as it is better processed by their carnivorous systems. Moreover, some dogs including older canines may have trouble digesting plant protein. It is not a deal breaker, but it is something to keep in mind.
Most of their foods contain added salt, as well. Dog food tends to have enough sodium content so we’d rather not see any additional salt in any product, but again this does not mean that this food contains the kind of high salt content to trigger high blood pressure or cardiac issues. It just needs to be addressed as it is important to monitor salt intake for a lot of animals.
Overall, these foods contain a lot of good ingredients and nothing that would raise any major red flags. Natural Balance appears to be honoring its commitment to making wholesome, safe and natural nourishment for pets.
For our review, we chose to look at some of their most popular products. Here is a selection of our Natural Balance dog food reviews:
Natural Balance’s Ultra Whole Body Health line is a gluten-free food that is designed to provide for all the needs for every breed at every life stage. This food does contain good levels of quality protein, with meat sources like chicken listed as the first ingredient. Further down there is additional protein from ingredients like duck meal and salmon meal, the latter also providing omega fatty acids. However, this food does have DL-methionine. This suggests that protein levels in the food may be largely from plant protein, as food high in protein from meat would not need supplemental methionine. Natural Balance Ultra also contains added salt fairly high on the ingredient list, which we’d rather not see at all. It is high in healthy oils which contain substantial omega fatty acids like flaxseed oil and fish oil. Carbohydrates in this formula come from healthy selections like brown rice and oats. There are also some antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables like blueberries, cranberries, spinach and kelp, as well as supplemental taurine for metabolism support.
Limited Ingredient Diets are designed to help dogs who are prone to food sensitivities. Natural Balance uses unique protein sources like salmon or duck for those dogs that have sensitivities to the usual chicken or beef choices. The formula has plenty of omega fatty acids from salmon and flaxseed oil, and is well-supplemented with vitamins and minerals. However, the first ingredient is sweet potatoes and not too far down on the list we see salt and DL-methionine. Again, dogs really don’t need additional salt in their diets, but they do need high amounts of meat-based protein. The presence of the DL-methionine brings into question how much of the overall protein content is actually from meat.
The Wild Pursuit line is probably our favorite out of Natural Balance’s selection. It is modeled after the ancestral diet trend, offering a grain-free, high protein formula that even contains freeze-dried raw pieces for unprocessed nourishment. The first ingredients are great protein sources like trout, eggs and salmon meal, followed by excellent fiber-rich complex carbohydrates like garbanzo beans. This recipe contains a great blend of fruits and vegetables like cranberries, blueberries, zucchini, kelp and apples, as well as all the right vitamins and minerals. Salt is also added to the Wild Pursuit recipe though in smaller amounts as it appears lower on the list.
Natural Balance markets their Synergy line as an ultra premium dry dog food. This has high levels of protein from sources like chicken and chicken meal, combined with complex carbohydrates from brown rice and pearled barley. Synergy has high levels of omega fatty acids from egg, flaxseed oil and salmon oil, as well as antioxidants from ingredients like carrots, kelp and cranberries. Beet pulp is fairly high on the ingredient list and serves as a good source of fiber to aid digestion, as does inulin, which is also included here. This food is well-supplemented with vitamins, minerals, taurine and l-carnitine for heart support and to boost metabolism. Like the other selections, it does contain added salt, but in moderate amounts.
Natural Balance has wet food options that correspond with their different lines of food, but we would recommend either their Ultra or Wild Pursuit varieties above all. The Ultra canned food, for instance, has high meat protein levels as well as healthy carbohydrates from oats, brown rice and potatoes. This food is well-supplemented with vitamins and minerals, though we’d like to see something other than canola oil as a source of fatty acids. This wet food also contains guar gum and carrageenan, two natural but sometimes controversial ingredients.
Natural Balance has several varieties of dog food that contain quality ingredients and have rated well with consumers who have fed them to their dogs. A look at the labels leads us to believe that their Wild Pursuit and Synergy formulas are particularly high quality. They have higher levels of meat protein, more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and perhaps most importantly, no added DL-methionine. Again, this implies that the high protein content is from meat rather than plant proteins.
The company’s reaction to the mass recalls of 2007 was probably one of the most noble things any of the associated brands could have done. By taking matters into their own hands and creating their own quality assurance laboratory, they really took responsibility for any potential problems in the future.
All pet parents everywhere want to believe that they are feeding their beloved animals something safe and nourishing, produced by people who care as much as they do about their pet’s wellbeing. The truth is that the pet food industry is a multibillion dollar business and cutting corners is unfortunately commonplace. Natural Balance took a negative event and daringly decided to personally guarantee their products from that point on. In an industry with a lot of big name players who lack transparency about a lot of their products, we really have to give Natural Balance big points for that move.