Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free Dog Food earns the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.

The Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free product line includes one dry dog food, a recipe claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient guidelines for adult maintenance.

Hill's Science Diet Grain Free Adult Formula

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 25% | Fat = 16% | Carbs = 52%

Ingredients: Chicken, potatoes, yellow peas, pea protein, potato starch, chicken meal, chicken fat, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, flaxseed, soybean oil, lactic acid, egg product, powdered cellulose, pork fat, iodized salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride, green peas, apples, cranberries, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, biotin, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), carrots, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, broccoli, mixed tocopherols for freshness, natural flavors, beta-carotene

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.6%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis25%16%NA
Dry Matter Basis25%16%52%
Calorie Weighted Basis22%33%45%
Protein = 22% | Fat = 33% | Carbs = 45%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The third ingredient includes yellow peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fifth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The sixth ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The seventh ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The eighth ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With five notable exceptions

First, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

Next, soybean oil is red flagged here only due to its rumored (yet unlikely) link to canine food allergies.

However, since soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids and contains no omega-3’s, it’s considered less nutritious than flaxseed oil or a named animal fat.

In addition, this recipe includes powdered cellulose, a non-digestible plant fiber usually made from the by-products of vegetable processing. Except for the usual benefits of fiber, powdered cellulose provides no nutritional value to a dog.

We also note the use of green peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, the minerals listed here do not appear to be chelated. And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.

Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free Dog Food looks like an average dry product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 25%, a fat level of 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 52%.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 62%.

Below-average protein. Near-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, pea protein and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a modest amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a modest amount of chicken as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.

Recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

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Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

10/24/2016 Last Update

  • Cathie Sheffield Ursu

    Why do so many Vets recommend this food? Do they get a kick back from the company?

  • Amateria

    I think what I read some time ago was written by Royal Canin although not quiet sure, but they were priding themselves on how many formulas they have and that they will continue to make more formulas that way no other company will be able to keep up with them formula wise.

    So that’s most likely the reason.

  • mahoraner niall

    Atleast hills is trying to improve their science diet brand,
    if only they would change the FORMULAS and not just make a new one.

  • Count me on liking an update. Switched my Dachshund to this and it’s helped him a lot overall. Still, I want what’s best for my boy based on the current Science Diet GF

  • Dixie Robinson

    if possiable can you please do a update on both the grain free dry and grain free salmon dry of science diet.
    i have a 3 yr old pure breed boxer that i acquired from the local rescue. it was a surrender. and the owner did not tell them what they fed her. so the shelter feeds all animals. science diet. i noticed she was itching badly so i gave her the grain free dry, and grain free salmon mixed together. as the vet suggested. but she does not seem to like it. i would love to see your updated take on this product. because i only want the best for my boxer. and any dog in general/. ty

  • Qi Koh

    The vet recommended this brand. I bought this range. My 4 yr old Pom did not find it at all appetizing. The I/D gastrointestinal canned is OK though.

  • Erika

    Mike when you get a chance can you please review the new science diet grain free canned formula? It comes in chicken, beef, lamb, and salmon. Thank you!

  • Pattyvaughn

    You want to remove as many chemicals from your dog’s life as possible, including food additives, scented candles, air fresheners, herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, cleaners, etc.
    Look for a food that you understand what every ingredient is, that is as natural as possible. Some to look at are Earthborn Holistic, Nature’s Logic, Nature’s Variety Instinct, and Brother’s Complete

  • Lab owner

    Our 2 yr old lab has epilepsy is on medication but still
    Seizures , suggested to put on low carb high protein &
    Omga 3 dog food before increasing meds
    Any suggestions?

  • Zyekitty

    My vet told me the same thing about hills, except she elaborated a bit more, this was a visit with my cat and she went on about how the cats were treated so great, got to sun themselves extra and they were observed their entire lives.

    I feed my cat wellness, I feel like its healthier and she doesn’t bury it with paper towels and refuse to eat it like she did with the hills bladder control…she had chronic bladder infections when she was on hills bladder control…she doesn’t get them anymore.

    edit: obviously not the same food as reviewed here, just agreeing with your point about how hills is pushed by vets.

  • Pattyvaughn

    There is zero chance that a grain free food with an ingredient that your dog is allergic/intolerant of is going to be better for the dog than a grain inclusive food that doesn’t have that ingredient. You have to figure out the food intolerance before you can judge whether or not your dog does well on grain free. One of my dogs is intolerant of chicken, some grains, and tomato. He does great on SOME grain free foods, but just horrible on others. I haven’t found a grain inclusive food yet that he can have, but I’m still looking.

  • Pattyvaughn

    That’s about what Evangers is doing.

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    Hi Krista, grain free can be tricky to do. Many GF foods are just as bad (if not worse) than the foods with lousy grains. I’ve only gone GF once with my dog, and it was Paramount. Never doing that again, it was full of potatoes…pretty much filler.
    A friend uses NutriSource GF food, and she has, honestly, the healthiest 13y.o. Lab/Aussie I have ever met! That is definitely my most recommended GF food. That and Taste of the Wild, definitely.

    You could always add some raw meat or canned food for extra proteins, or add raw veggies/berries for more vitamins.

    You also might need to experiment for a while. I have a friend who’s dogs did worse on GF foods than grain-full ones. She even tried raw with one of her boys and he actually got skin problems. Every dog is different, therefore there is no one brand that is “THE best”

  • Carlyn Jefferson

    I really don’t get why our vet recommends this brand! He told me it’s because “they’re one of the few companies that tests their recipes as well as other brands by using many dogs at the lab…” He described it in comparison to “…people being fed just potato chips, and others fed other foods, then their health is observed…” I told him we used Dog Lover’s Gold, and he said he wouldn’t recommend it…

    Why did the good old, knowledgable have to retire and leave us to these guys? *rolls eyes*

    Dog food can be such a joke sometimes…it’s all about whoever can have the “biggest, catchiest name” and the “fanciest, most convincing labels” Seriously! You could sell people cans of pig lard and label it as a high quality food…they’d buy it, I’ll bet!

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Krista, stay away from Science Diet & Purina. Definitely go for grain free food, since dogs do not have a dietary requirement for grain/carbs. Some budget friendly grain free foods- Rachael Ray Zero Grain, 4health Grain free, Earthborn Grain Free, Hi-Tek Naturals grain free, Victor grain free. Topping dry food with canned is a great way to add more/higher grade protein.

  • Krista Bingham Pitts

    You’ve posted and replied to another post that I’ve been on. I’m looking for a good dog food for my three year old lab. My vet has suggested Science Diest, Purina pro choice. I’ve read mixed reviews on these. What are your thoughts on these or Pure Balance. What are your thoughts on grain free?

    Sorry for all the questions.. just frustrated with dog food companies. Just want something safe for my baby.

  • Absolutely! 🙁 Heck, there’s probably more protein from the potatoes than from chicken! Reminds me of First Mate Grain-Free a bit when they advertise that one of their foods has “27% Protein from Potatoes”.. and yet potatoes have very little protein.. so there must be a LOT of potatoes in that food!!! 🙁

  • Pattyvaughn

    That is a pretty nasty ingredient list. There is more pea protein in this than chicken protein I bet.

  • Leave it to Science Diet to provide a great example of how NOT to do a grain-free formula!! Maybe this will make more people understand that their grain-inclusive formulae are just as horrible as this grain-free formula, and that Science Diet just simply doesn’t get dog nutrition AT ALL…and/or couldn’t care less.