Hill’s Science Diet is a brand of dog food that is well known for their specialist formulations. There are those that cater specifically to dog breeds as well as specific canine conditions like obesity, liver problems, allergies, skin and coat health, and diabetes, among others. True enough, whenever people talk about Science Diet dog food, they always think of highly specialized canine nutrition. As such, a number of Hill’s Science Diet dog food reviews actually recommend the brand because of its modest amounts of easily identifiable meats and meals. In this review, we’ll have our own evaluation as to why you should consider Hills’ Science dog food for your pet.
Hill’s Science Diet began in the 1960s when Dr. Mark L. Morris, Jr. was asked to formulate a highly specialized diet for a German shepherd that was diagnosed with a kidney disease. This paved the way for the emergence of the brand as a provider of high quality life-stage and condition-specific pet food. The Science Diet is just one of two special formulations to ever come out of the Hill’s kitchens, the other one being the Hill’s Prescription Diet.
The brand boasts of more than 220 veterinary food scientists, veterinarians, PhD nutritionists, and food technicians working every day to provide pet parents with the right blend of ingredients that their dogs need depending on its current condition, existing lifestyle, and stage of life. The company uses only high quality ingredients such as chicken, salmon, and lamb, although their formulations sometimes include pork into the mix. Majority of the formulations contain real chicken, however.
Hill’s Science Diet is proud to utilize Predictive Biology in its veterinary clinical nutrition formulation. This allows the brand to formulate diets that are highly specific to the needs of certain types and breeds of dogs especially with respect to the dog’s unique biology. It’s also one of the brands that are often prescribed by veterinarians.
However, this is not to say that the company doesn’t have its lows. The brand voluntarily recalled several of its products in June 2014 because of suspected salmonella contamination in its select dry dog food products. In November 2015, the brand also voluntarily recalled some of its canned or wet dog food formulations for reasons that are yet to be divulged.
Long before these product recalls, the brand’s popularity has been steadily declining from a good 10.7% in 2008 down to 9.1% in 2015. Part of the shift in consumer confidence was the perception that the Science Diet is not really ‘natural’. This is also highlighted in several Science Diet dog food reviews.
Why Choose this Brand?
If you’re into dog food that is designed specifically to specific canine conditions and requirements such as oral care, fitness, sensitive stomach and skin, kidney disease, weight management, and many more, then the Hill’s Science Diet range of dog food is for you. These preparations are designed by veterinarians who specialize in veterinary clinical nutrition. You’ll always feel a lot safer knowing that you’re giving your pet the right kind of food that your veterinarian himself would also prescribe.
If you don’t necessarily believe that corn, wheat, or soy or any other of the so-called allergenic grains and ingredients will bring harm to your pet, then this brand is definitely for you. Unless otherwise specified, Science Hill diets always include these ingredients as a major source of energy for your pet. At the very least you’re saving the proteins in their food from ever being used as an energy source. It’s the perfect diet for pets that lead a very active lifestyle.
Pet parents who want to save on specialty dog diets without necessarily sacrificing the quality of the dog food Hill’s Science Diet is a worthy choice. Among dog food brands that have specialty diets, the Hill’s brand offers exceptional affordability since they don’t really put too much expensive animal proteins into their formulations. This allows the brand to lower the price since the cost of manufacturing is not that high compared to companies that put 70 to 80 percent animal products into their preparations.
An analysis of the ingredients of Science Diet dog food reveals the following.
- Moderately low to average proteins
On the average, Hill’s Science Diet formulas come with about 23% crude proteins, roughly translated to a dry matter equivalent of about 25.5%. While this is well within the recommendations of the AAFCO as well as other canine nutrition organizations, it still pales in comparison to other brands of dog food that has crude protein levels in the high-20s to mid-30s for a guaranteed dry weight equivalent of 32% to 42%. Protein is essential in dogs since it is in their genes that they utilize as much proteins as possible for muscle and organ growth and development.
Another point that is definitely not going well with the Science Diet dog food is that it contains more plant-based proteins in many of its formulations than animal-sourced proteins. Not only that, the use of gluten into many of the brand’s products has been sending allergy-wary pet parents from its fold. While plant and animal proteins are essentially the same – both are proteins anyway – plant proteins lack some of the essential amino acids that can only be found in animal sources. It is also for this reason that Hill’s Science Diet finds it necessary to supplement the formulation with these missing amino acids. This has fueled the speculation that the brand is not using natural ingredients at all.
Sadly, some of its formulations also put animal proteins as secondary ingredients, often taking the back seat behind brewer’s rice, for instance. While it is true that such formulation is to help minimize stomach upset by providing a less-than-allergenic ingredient at the top of the list, the formula still includes an allergenic protein in the form of chicken.
On the positive note, the brand does name its animal proteins and fats quite splendidly. Nowhere in its ingredient list can you find vague terms such as ‘poultry’ or ‘meat’. You’ll definitely get chicken.
- Low to moderate fats
Hills dog food typically contains about 12 to 13 percent of crude fat. This means it has about 13% to 14% fat as dry matter. The AAFCO recommends a minimum of 8.5% for growth and reproduction and 5.5% for maintenance. While the brand effectively complies with this minimum requirement, again it pales in comparison to other dog food brands that can have a dry matter fat equivalent of between 21 and 25 percent.
One thing that strengthens the perception of pet parents about the quality of Hill’s Science Diet formulations is the preponderance of omega-6 essential fatty acids in the products. While it is true that omega-6 fatty acids do provide a host of benefits especially on the dog’s skin and coat this fatty acid is actually sourced mostly from plants like corn, soybean oil, flaxseed, and primrose seed. This further strengthens the belief that the company doesn’t put enough meats into their formulations and instead uses cheap veggies and grains to supply these nutrients.
It does provide fish oil in some of its products, however.
- Above average carbohydrates
Given that the average dry matter protein and fat contents of Science Diet dog food are 25.5% and 12.5%, respectively; this puts its carbohydrate content at 52%. This computation is based on the ingredient composition whereby 10% is water.
Sadly, the AAFCO doesn’t have any recommendations on what can be considered as the maximum amount of carbohydrates that can be given to dogs. What is known is that, from an evolutionary standpoint, dogs’ diet should be composed mainly of proteins and fats.
While there are those who say that carbs give dogs the energy they need, proteins and fats contain calories, too. Additionally, proponents of the evolutionary canine diet point to higher proportions of proteins and fats relative to carbs. In no way did they say that carbs should be eliminated from the dog’s diet owing to the fact that canines are not obligate carnivores but rather omnivores.
Because of the rather higher than usual carbs in Science Diet dog food one can always expect a rich source of vitamins and minerals to help in a dog’s optimum development while also maintaining its optimum physiologic processes. Sadly, if only the brand put more animal sources into their formulations, one can get better micronutrient levels that there really is no longer any need for supplementation.
Pros & Cons
- Well-balanced formulation that is specific to breeds, canine activities, and dog health concerns
- Good ratio between protein and fat with modest calorie content
- Named animal protein sources in ingredient list
- Utilizes all natural ingredients without the need for artificial flavorings and preservatives
- Includes chondroitin and glucosamine whenever appropriate
- Friendlier price compared to other specialist diets
- Contains corn, wheat, soy, and other potentially allergenic grains in many formulations
- Some formulations do not list an animal protein as its first ingredient
- Higher percentage of carbs compared to proteins and fats
- History of product recalls
Hill’s Science Diet dog food may have been a worthy option for pet parents in the past because of its unique canine condition- and dog life stage- based formulations. Unfortunately, as consumer awareness about the unique nutritional needs of dogs utilizing natural ingredients that closely mimic their evolutionary or ancestral diets grows the clout of the brand is getting weaker. For its price, it still is a good dog food to give to pets especially if you don’t necessarily believe in canine gluten allergies.