Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3 stars.
The Hill’s Science Diet Puppy product line includes five dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for growth.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Large Breed
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Small and Toy Breed
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development Original
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development Small Bites
- Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Large Breed Lamb Meal and Rice
Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development Small Bites was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development Small Bites
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, whole grain wheat, pork meal, whole grain corn, whole grain sorghum, corn gluten meal, pork fat, chicken liver flavor, dried beet pulp, fish oil, lactic acid, flaxseed, pork liver flavor, soybean oil, dicalcium phosphate, iodized salt, potassium chloride, l-lysine, choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, oat fiber, mixed tocopherols for freshness, phosphoric acid, beta-carotene, natural flavors, dried apples, dried broccoli, dried carrots, dried cranberries, dried peas
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.8%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||30%||20%||42%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||25%||40%||35%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The second ingredient is pearled barley. The term “pearled” means the grain has been processed to remove its outer hull and bran, unlike whole barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The third ingredient is wheat. Like corn, wheat is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
For this reason, we do not consider wheat a preferred component in any dog food.
The fourth ingredient is pork meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
The fifth ingredient is corn. Corn is another cereal grain and subject to the same issues as wheat (previously discussed).
The sixth ingredient is sorghum. Sorghum (milo) is a starchy cereal grain with a nutrient profile similar to corn.
Since it is gluten-free and boasts a smoother blood sugar behavior than other grains, sorghum may be considered an acceptable non-meat ingredient.
The seventh ingredient is corn gluten meal. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once corn has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.
Compared to meat, glutens are inferior grain-based proteins lower in some of the essential amino acids dogs need for life.
This inexpensive plant-based ingredient can significantly boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The eighth ingredient is pork fat, a product from rendering pig meat.
Commonly known as lard, pork fat can add significant flavor to any dog food. And it can be high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.
Although it may not sound very appetizing, pork fat (in moderate amounts) is actually an acceptable pet food ingredient.
After the chicken liver flavor, we find 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, fish oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.
Depending on its level of freshness and purity, fish oil should be considered a commendable addition.
Next, 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.
In addition, 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.
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 Puppy Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Science Diet Puppy 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 30% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 44% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.
Near-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effects of the corn gluten meal and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken or lamb meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.
For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".
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Notes and Updates
12/30/2009 Original review
08/03/2010 Review updated
05/17/2012 Review updated
02/16/2013 Review updated
10/17/2013 Review updated
10/17/2013 Last Update