Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free Dog Food Review (Dry)

Rating:

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

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

Science Diet Grain Free Sensitive Stomach and Skin

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 25% | Fat = 18% | Carbs = 49%

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

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.5%

Red denotes controversial item

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis25%18%NA
Dry Matter Basis25%18%49%
Calorie Weighted Basis21%37%42%
Protein = 21% | Fat = 37% | Carbs = 42%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains up to 73% 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 lists 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 third 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 fourth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

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

The sixth 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 seventh 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.

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 six 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.

We also find taurine in this food. Taurine is an important amino acid associated with the healthy function of heart muscle. Although taurine is not typically considered essential in canines, some dogs have been shown to be deficient in this critical nutrient.

Since taurine deficiency appears to be more common in pets consuming grain-free diets, we view its presence in this recipe as a positive addition.

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

Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free
Dog Food Review

Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free looks like an average dry dog food.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 25%, a fat level of 18% and estimated carbohydrates of about 49%.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 73%.

Below-average protein. Above-average fat. And near-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 moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Hill’s Science Diet Grain Free is a dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meat meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3 stars.

However, with 37% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 21% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.

Recommended.

Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food
Recall History

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

A Final Word

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Important FDA Alert

The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.

Notes and Updates

07/30/2019 Last Update