Nutro Dog Food Review | Ratings | Recalls

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Nutro dog food formulas use non-GMO ingredients to provide wholesome nutrition without additives or by-products.

As a vet tech, I noticed that most dogs who ate natural products had better overall health.

I frequently recommend Nutro dog food to clients who wanted their dogs to eat a non-GMO diet. So I researched this dog food brand to find out just how natural it is.

This Nutro dog food review will provide an objective analysis of Nutro’s ingredients and controversial recall history. Keep reading to learn if Nutro formulas live up to the company’s wholesome principles.

About Nutro

nutro logo

Nutro follows a “feed clean” philosophy when developing dog food formulas. The “feed clean” philosophy refers to the brand’s dedicated use of non-GMO ingredients in simple recipes.

This company believes that natural ingredients are the safest and healthiest options for dogs. You can find whole foods like natural animal proteins and whole grains on all their products’ ingredient labels.

GMO ingredients and inexpensive fillers are frequently found on labels of other popular and budget-friendly pet food brands. But unlike other premium pet companies that use organic ingredients, Nutro manages to keep their prices relatively affordable.

Nutro’s product range of non-GMO dog food includes formulas for all life stages and breeds. There are several limited ingredient Nutro recipes for dogs with allergies. But, most of their products are best for dogs without health concerns that require therapeutic nutrition.

Although I researched some concerning recalls in Nutro’s company history, I feel confident about recommending this brand because of their updated safety protocols.

The brand practices greater oversight than most companies at every stage of the manufacturing process to ensure integrity with rigorous safety testing. 

Despite the premium quality of their products, Nutro formulas offer an excellent value compared to more expensive brands.

Nutro Dog Food History

The Nutro Dog Food Company started producing pet food in 1922 and became a trademark in 1936. In the same decade, three brothers began an unusual path towards becoming innovators in the pet food industry and eventually acquiring the Nutro brand.

Those brothers were John, Herman, and Albert Saleen. The Saleen brothers operated a fox farm and needed to find a convenient way to feed their foxes. So they created their own commercial fox food in 1933 before using their unique experience to develop commercial pet food. 

In 1947, John Saleen took over Kal Kan pet foods. He acquired the Nutro dog food brand from its founder the same year. That very decision allowed Nutro to grow into a mainstream brand supported by a unique family’s reputation until a group of silent partners acquired Nutro in 1975.

In 2007, Nutro eventually joined the large family of pet brands owned by Mars Inc. Other dog food brands managed by this corporation include Iams, Pedigree, and Eukanuba. Today, Mars Petcare is the largest company in the global pet food industry.

Compared to the other brands in the Mars family, Nutro features better quality ingredients and higher prices. The brand gained a reputation for producing premium natural formulas with excellent value.

Where Is Nutro Dog Food Made?

Nutro began as a small family business in California. After Mars acquired the company in 2007, the Nutro headquarters moved to Tennessee.

Nutro’s parent company operates the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, where a team of researchers apply science to pet product development. [1] This research informs the production of new Nutro recipes to ensure its products can help improve pet health.

All dry Nutro dog food products are manufactured at Mars facilities in North Carolina or California. Wet food formulas are produced at separate facilities in Ohio, Arkansas, and South Dakota.

The company claims to source ingredients from trusted suppliers throughout the world. Although they test all components for safety, the exact source locations are unclear. All ingredients used in Nutro recipes are non-GMO.

Legal Issues and Controversies

Nutro has experienced some legal controversies during its long history in the pet food industry. Some of these controversies involve investigations by the FDA of Nutro products.

But Nutro has also initiated its own studies that have exposed its competitors’ shortcomings.

Nutro vs. Iams

Before belonging to the same family of pet brands owned by the Mars Corporation, Nutro directly targeted Iams in a series of studies. Iams, their competitor, reformulated several recipes in the early 2000s and drastically reduced recommended serving sizes to lower prices. [2]

Nutro proactively investigated their competitor because they believed that Iams instructed dog owners to feed inadequate diets to their pets.

Independent studies commissioned by Nutro had to stop early after subject dogs lost weight too quickly while eating Iams diets.  As a result of the investigation, the FDA instructed Iams to change the formulas involved in their misleading marketing campaign.

Iams responded by filing a lawsuit against Nutro, but Nutro counter sued. Iams eventually settled the case and agreed to change the formulas, conceding that Nutro had exposed their recipes’ inadequacies.

DCM Investigation

Nutro appeared on the FDA’s June 2019 list of 16 pet food brands potentially linked to heart problems. This list mainly included grain-free formulas, but no recalls occurred due to the ongoing research involving the issue. [3]

Pentobarbital Investigation

The worst controversy involved potential pentobarbital contamination in Nutro dog food. Samples of products manufactured by several different companies between 1998 and 2000 tested positive for small amounts of the euthanasia drug. [4

Although low levels of the drug did not pose significant risks, the contamination worried consumers. Like many pet parents, learning about this investigation concerned me. But further research into Nutro’s modern safety practices has reassured my confidence in their products.

In 2002, the FDA released information about a widespread investigation into pentobarbital in dog foods spanning multiple years and several pet brands. They discovered that small amounts of the drug made its way into dog food from euthanized cattle and horses rendered for meat products.

Rendering involves cooking and centrifuging meat waste by-products to create usable ingredients. Standard rendered products used in dog food include beef tallow, animal fat, and bone meal. [5]

The FDA stressed that it was improbable that pentobarbital exposure levels found in dog food would adversely impact health. Plus, tests confirmed a total absence of any DNA from euthanized dogs or cats. [6]

This investigation occurred many years ago, and Nutro has changed its formulas significantly since then. The brand no longer uses risky rendered ingredients. 

Although some brands from the 2002 investigation faced similar allegations in 2018, Nutro has not suffered from a similar incident again.

Ingredient Quality

nutro gmo free

The ingredients used in Nutro dog food formulas are generally above average. Real meat is the first ingredient in all Nutro recipes, providing high amounts of bioavailable protein.

Although Nutro does not use any meat by-products in its formula, meat meals occasionally appear on ingredient labels. Chicken meals and other meat meals offer concentrated sources of protein made from multiple parts of the animal.

You can choose between grain-free and grain-inclusive recipes depending on your personal preference. Grain-inclusive formulas use whole grains, which provide more fiber and nutrients than refined alternatives.

Some Nutro product lines use a variety of superfoods to boost the nutrient content of their recipes. But the majority of these ingredients can be found further down the label in smaller amounts.

Unique ingredients used by Nutro include chia seed, pumpkin, and spinach. However, the highlight of Nutro’s ingredient quality is what you won’t find on the ingredient list. There are no artificial preservatives, cheap fillers, soy, corn, or wheat.

Excluding these ingredients makes many Nutro formulas an excellent option for sensitive dogs with intolerances or allergies. Dogs with advanced needs should consider specialized formulas and limited ingredient diet recipes.

Nutro Dog Food Brand Lines

Nutro offers several product lines with recipes for different dogs with individual needs. Although formulas vary slightly, all Nutro products emphasize natural ingredients.

Remember to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Nutro Natural Choice

Nutro Natural Choice Dog Food

Nutro Natural Choice dog foods’ diverse lineup includes various flavors and recipes to suit different breeds and life stages. A moderate protein content comes from meat sources like chicken and lamb.

Moderate protein and fat levels are perfect for most pets with sedentary lifestyles. Excessive calories could contribute to unwanted weight gain. But these formulas may not provide enough protein for active dogs with extra muscle mass.

Sources of fat include animal fat and whole flaxseed. Flaxseed and chia seed have significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to support coat and immune health. Meat meals added for extra protein also provide natural sources of glucosamine for joint health.

Like all Nutro product lines, the ingredients used in these recipes are non-GMO. Nutro excludes common GMO plants like Soy to make their recipes as natural as possible.

These recipes evolved from a rebranding of Nutro Wholesome Essentials product line. The original products also offered grain-inclusive formulas for dogs of all ages with average lifestyles.

However, Nutro didn’t just change the name of these products. The company also altered popular recipes preferred by dog owners. Some pet parents reported vomiting in dogs who transitioned abruptly from Wholesome Essentials to Natural Choice.

Nutro Ultra

Nutro Ultra Dog Food

Nutro Ultra formulas use multiple animal protein sources and superfoods to provide comprehensive nutritional support from whole foods.

This lineup also includes recipes designed specifically for large breeds, small breeds, and seniors.

Dog owners can select from several varieties of wet and dry dog food in this range. The wet recipes feature an appealing pate texture that can be used as a topper on kibble.

These formulas feature a slightly higher protein and fat content. These moderate crude macronutrients make the Nutro Ultra lineup suitable for dogs with a broad range of lifestyles.

Superfood ingredients found in these recipes include coconut, kale, and blueberries. Using a diverse range of whole ingredients helps ensure that the dog food offers comprehensive natural nutrient sources.

Nutro LID

Nutro LID Dog Food

Nutro also offers a product range of Limited Ingredient Diets. This type of dog food formula uses a simple recipe and excludes common allergens to prevent allergic reactions in sensitive pups.

Dogs with food allergies or intolerances need elimination diets to eliminate the ingredient that causes them to experience an adverse reaction. Common allergens are typically proteins, so most limited ingredient diets use a single novel protein source.

Examples of novel proteins in the Nutro LID lineup include salmon and venison. A shortlist of additional ingredients complement the protein to provide balanced nutrition.

Most limited ingredient diets also exclude grains to prevent gluten intolerances.

Fortification with additional vitamins and minerals helps ensure that these simple recipes meet AAFCO’s daily nutrient recommendations.

Nutro Dog Food Recall History

Like many dog food brands with a long history, Nutro has experienced several recalls in the past.

Here is a list of recent Nutro dog food recalls.

  • March 2016 – Petsmart withdrew a limited number of production lots of Nutro Apple Chewy Treats due to potential mold growth. [7]
  • October 2009 – Nutro withdrew certain bags of Nutro Ultra Puppy and Nutro Natural Choice after finding plastic in the production line. [8]
  • March 2007 – The FDA recalled several Nutro products due to Melamine contamination. Unfortunately, several pets became sick and died after eating contaminated food. [9]

You can learn more about any dog food product recalls on the FDA website.

Our Verdict

This Nutro dog food review reveals that the company lives up to its reputation as a natural pet brand that uses clean, non-GMO ingredients.

While the company does have a concerning recall history, Nutro has implemented additional quality assurance protocols to limit the potential for future safety risks.

I recommend Nutro dog food for pet owners who want to eliminate GMO ingredients and common allergens from their pup’s diet.

Diverse Nutro dog food recipes offer a variety of formulas designed for different breeds and life stages. But all Nutro dog foods include nutritious superfoods while excluding additives, fillers, and preservatives.

Always remember to talk to your vet before changing your dog’s diet to a different food from any brand.

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Caroline Cochran is a former veterinary technician who is passionate about helping fellow dog lovers learn about canine nutrition. Her best friend is a rescued Great Pyrenees named Syrah, who is also very enthusiastic about dog food.

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