Nulo Dog Food Review
Nulo dog food was founded in 2009-10 by owners Michael Landa and Brett Montana. They had previously been partners in a pet-sitting and dog-walking business in southern California. According to Landa, while operating the earlier business, his employees often had to give diabetic injections to pets. He says he was shocked by the high amounts of carbohydrates, high glycemic ingredients, and lack of meat in some pet foods. This led to the development of Nulo dog food. Nulo is based in Austin, Texas. The company currently has two product lines for dogs: MedalSeries and Freestyle. Both lines are grain free, high in animal-based protein, low in carbohydrates, and low-glycemic. They have kibble and canned foods. The company also makes cat foods.
Who Manufactures Nulo Dog Food?
According to Nulo their kibbles are manufactured by CJ Foods with facilities in Nebraska and Kansas. Nulo’s canned foods are made by Simmons Pet Foods. Both of these companies are well-known with good reputations for making foods for some of the top pet foods in the U.S.
According to the company:
Nulo is proudly made in the U.S.A using only the highest quality domestic ingredients. Our foods are produced in USDA, FDA, and AAFCO approved facilities and our dry food kitchen receives an annual inspection by the American Institute of Baking (AIB) and has consistently received “Superior” ratings.
Nulo Food Recalls
Nulo has never had a recall.
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Nulo Dog Food Overview
Nulo dog foods have lots of features that dog lovers should like. Their foods are grain free. They are high in meat proteins with over 80 percent of proteins coming from real meat such as lamb, chicken, salmon, turkey, or cod. The foods are low-carb and contain only low-glycemic index ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, and sweet potatoes. The foods are also gluten-free. The company uses a patented protiobic called BC30. This is a pure probiotic strain with guaranteed survivability. Compared to other probiotics used by pet food companies, it’s able to withstand the heat of food processing. Nulo foods also have no corn, wheat, or soy; and no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavoring. There’s a lot to like about these foods.
In case you’re wondering, Nulo says this about their meats:
We have worked extensively to develop a network of sustainable family ranchers and farmers with an emphasis on free-range beef, free-roam chicken & turkey, and wild-caught fish from sustainable aquatic environments that conform to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program.
The MedalSeries features six kibble recipes and five canned formulas. The kibbles include Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe, Adult Dog Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Adult Dog Chicken & Peas Recipe, Adult Dog Salmon & Sweet Potatoes Recipe, Large Breed Dog Turkey & Peas Recipe, and Senior Dog Chicken & Lentils Recipe. The MedalSeries canned formulas are also grain free. They include Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Salmon & Chickpeas Recipe, Chicken, Carrots & Peas Recipe, Beef, Peas & Carrots Recipe, and Turkey & Sweet Potatoes Recipe.
The protein in the MedalSeries foods range from 80-85 percent animal-based protein from meat and fish, making their percentage one of the highest in the pet food industry, if not the highest. According to Mr. Landa, the company also makes sure that their foods contain a blend of amino acids so your dog is getting a balanced amino acid profile that is good for his health.
If we take one of the MedalSeries foods as an example, such as the Salmon & Sweet Potato Adult Dog Recipe, 82 percent of the protein in the food comes from animal-based protein sources. The first five ingredients in this food are: Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Whole Peas, and Sweet Potato. The food has 32 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. Calorie Content: (ME calculated) 3,663 kcal/kg, 432 kcal/cup. The food is AAFCO-approved as a maintenance dog food.
If you’re wondering about the ash content in this food (and other MedalSeries foods), Nulo supplied us with the information (as-fed basis):
Dry Dog Formulas
- MedalSeries Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato: 7.47%
- MedalSeries Adult Chicken & Peas: 7.47%
- MedalSeries Adult Lamb & Lentils: 8.02%
- MedalSeries Adult Salmon & Sweet Potato: 7.53%
- MedalSeries Large Breed Adult Turkey & Peas: 8.45%
- MedalSeries Senior Chicken & Lentils: 8.90%
With this in mind, we figured the DMB (dry matter basis) values for the MedalSeries Salmon & Sweet Potato Adult Dog Food Recipe to be: 35.6 percent protein, 18.9 percent fat, 5.6 percent fiber, and 31.6 percent carbohydrates. That carb percentage is quite low compared to many dog foods today which can have carbohydrate percentages as high as 45-50 percent or more. Even many grain free foods often have very high carbohydrate percentages.
Nulo’s MedalSeries dog foods are available exclusively at Petsmart.
Nulo dog food also makes the Freestyle line of foods which are available from independent pet food retailers and online from Chewy.com. Freestyle includes eight kibble formulas and five canned recipes. The Freestyle foods are also grain free.
Freestyle kibbles include: Puppy Salmon & Peas Recipe, Puppy Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe, Small Breed Dog Salmon & Red Lentils Recipe, Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe, Adult Dog Salmon & Peas Recipe, Adult Dog Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe, Adult Trim Cod & Lentils Recipe (low fat formula), and Senior Dog Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe. Freestyle canned recipes are also grain free. They include: Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Salmon & Chickpeas Recipe, Chicken, Carrots & Peas Recipe, Beef, Peas & Carrots Recipe, and Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe.
With the exception of Adult Trim kibble (low fat formula), which has 74 percent animal-based proteins, these foods also have the same high protein percentages as the MedalSeries recipes. We can use Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe as an example. The first five ingredients in the food are: Lamb, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Yellow Peas, and Chickpeas. According to Nulo, 81 percent of the protein in the food comes from real meat like lamb, turkey and salmon. The food has 31 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 4.5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. Calorie Content: (ME calculated) 3,608 kcal/kg, 426 kcal/cup. This food is AAFCO-approved for maintenance.
Freestyle kibbles ash content (as-fed):
Dry Dog Formulas
- Freestyle Adult Dog Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe: 7.75%
- Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe: 8.97%
- Freestyle Adult Dog Salmon & Peas Recipe: 8.51%
- Freestyle Adult Trim Cod & Lentils Recipe: 7.68%
We figured the dry matter basis (DMB) for the Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe using the ash figure supplied. The food has 34.4 percent protein, 18.9 percent fat, 5 percent fiber, and 31.7 percent carbohydrates.
We do note that the ash content for both the MedalSeries and the Freestyle foods is somewhat high. There can be various reasons for this. The industry average ash percentage for kibble is said to be about 7 percent. Some dry foods have a very low ash content and they contend that this is because they are using very high quality meats which don’t leave much residue behind after crude testing. (The ingredient is burned to remove the edible nutrients and the remaining mineral content – a pile of “ash” – is measured to determine the ash content. Dr. Tim’s gives a good explanation of ash in pet food.) We think some foods that use a lot of fermentation products/probiotics may have a higher ash content than other dog foods but this is only based on what we have noticed from looking at a lot of foods. We don’t have any evidence to back up this idea.
In addition to these basic facts about the MedalSeries and Freestyle foods, Nulo has some other nice features. Their foods have no potatoes, tapioca, corn, wheat, soy, glutens or GMOs, and no poultry or meat by-products, no artificial colors, preservatives, or flavoring. They do not use any ingredients from China. Most of their ingredients are sourced here in the U.S. Their lamb comes from New Zealand and some of their duck comes from western Canada. Their taurine comes from Japan and their vitamin C comes from Scotland. (Michael Landa told us that they are working on providing a source listing for every ingredient they use so keep checking the Nulo web site.)
Nulo dog food also uses Ganeden BC30 probiotics for digestive and immune health. We know – lots of companies claim they use special probiotics but most of the probiotics added to pet foods don’t survive the manufacturing process. The patented BC30 probiotic survives the extrusion and cooking process – and can back up the claim with research – AFB International Research & Development Study. This means that your pet actually gets the live friendly bacteria for better digestion and health. BC30 is a spore-based probiotic which is protected until it reaches the proper pH level found in the dog’s lower intestine where it starts to do its work.
Along with being made in the U.S., Nulo foods, both dry and canned, have intensive quality control programs in place to ensure the safety of the products from beginning to end.
Nulo has quickly grown from being a regional brand available at some Whole Food Markets in Texas to a national brand.
We’ll look at one of the foods in more detail below in our review.
Nulo Freestyle Small Breed Salmon & Red Lentils Recipe Dog Food Review
Nulo Freestyle Small Breed Salmon & Red Lentils Recipe is one of Nulo’s newer formulas. It’s been developed especially for small dogs. Small dogs have a higher metabolism than other dogs, burning more energy per pound than larger dogs. Foods made for small dogs typically have more calories per ounce than other foods to help supply their energy needs.
This small breed formula has 422 kcal/cup. It also comes in a smaller kibble size so it’s easier for small dogs to eat. The food is animal-based with 84 percent of the protein coming from meats like salmon, turkey, and lamb. It includes L-Carnitine which helps convert fat into lean muscle. It also has the same features found in other Nulo foods such as the patented BC30 probiotic, no eggs or chicken proteins, and no grains, potatoes, or tapioca. The food is also made with low-glycemic and low-carb ingredients. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are properly balanced for good heart and immune system health. This also promotes good skin and coat. Vegetables, fruits, and vitamins C and E work together and support the immune system. Natural fibers support good digestion.
The first five ingredients in this food are Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lamb Meal, and Red Lentils.
Deboned salmon will have the bones removed but it will still contain the moisture in the salmon. Salmon is a wonderful source of protein for dogs. It’s about 45 percent protein. It’s a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and phosphorus. It’s also an excellent source of cold water omega-3 fatty acids. This is the best kind of omega-3 for dogs which they can easily absorb. Salmon also has plenty of omega-6 fatty acids. Most dogs love salmon.
Turkey meal is a good source of poultry protein. Since this is a meal it means that most of the moisture has already been removed from the turkey. Turkey is low in fat and it’s a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. Depending on the part of the turkey, it has up to 70 percent protein.
Menhaden fish meal is the third ingredient. Menhaden is a common fish off the coasts of the United States. It’s used as a source of fish oil and it’s a major source of omega-3 fatty acids for neutraceutical companies. Most people don’t eat them today (though Native Americans fished for them), but the meal is often used in dog foods. Menhaden fish meal is a good source of concentrated protein and fatty acids.
The fourth ingredient is lamb meal. Once again, since this is a meal, most of the moisture has already been removed so this is a concentrated protein source. Lamb typically contains about 37 percent protein. It’s a good source of niacin, vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. It’s also surprisingly high in omega-3 and especially omega-6 fatty acids.
The fifth ingredient in the food is red lentils. Red lentils are an edible pulse – part of the legume family. Lentils are one of the ingredients that are used to replace grains in many grain free dog foods. They are high in protein, iron, phosphorus, copper, folate, manganese, and a good source of dietary fiber. They are also a good source of B vitamins. In addition, they are a source of the amino acid lysine. Lysine is needed to produce L-Carnitine which can convert fat into muscle and energy. They have about 27 percent protein, 3 percent fat, and 70 percent carbohydrates.
Other noteworthy ingredients in the food include fermentation products (probiotics); natural preservatives such as rosemary extract; prebiotics such as dried chicory root; and chelated/proteinated minerals which make it easier for your dog to absorb minerals. Nulo also uses sweet potatoes which it considers to be low-glycemic; and chickpeas which have many of the same benefits as lentils. The food contains chicken fat which is a good named fat for dogs. Ground flaxseed is a plant source of protein. It also has antioxidants and it’s a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
The food also contains miscanthus grass. Miscanthus grass is most familiar as an ornamental grass for the garden. Lately it is being used as a biofuel to make ethanol. Although some parts of some miscanthus species are edible, we didn’t find any articles about cooking with the plant or using it in food (or pet food) production. We’re not sure what it’s purpose is in Nulo foods.
Overall, the ingredients in this food look very good. The food does contain “natural flavor” which can be anything.
(ME calculated) 3,572 kcal/kg, 422 kcal/cup
Nulo FreeStyle™ Salmon & Red Lentils Recipe Small Breed Puppy & Adult Dog Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.
Crude Protein (min)…………………..….31.0%
Crude Fat (min)…………………………….17.0%
Crude Fiber (max)………………………….4.0%
The dry matter basis (DMB) figures for this food are: 34.4 percent protein; 18.9 percent fat; 4.4 percent fiber; and 42.2 percent carbohydrates.
This food has above average protein for a super premium dog food and above average fat compared to many super premium dog foods. It has average fiber and above average carbohydrates for a premium food.
Where can you buy Nulo Dog Food?
Nulo MedalSeries dog foods are available exclusively at PetSmart. Nulo Freestyle dog foods are available online and from independent pet food retailers. You can find them on Chewy.com. You can “Find A Store” that sells Nulo foods by clicking on this link.
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We like the ingredients in Nulo foods very much. We also like the fact that the foods are meat-based and high in animal protein. According to Michael Landa, dog lovers often choose between Nulo and Orijen foods. Nulo does not use some of the fresh ingredients that Orijen uses and their foods are higher in carbohydrates than Orijen. However, their meat protein and animal protein content compares favorably with Orijen at a lower price. We think the Nulo foods – both the MedalSeries and the Freestyle foods – are very good. Recommended.