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Hill’s Healthy Advantage (Dry)
Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage dry dog food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2.5 stars.
The Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage product line lists three dry dog foods.
Although each formulation appears to be designed for a specific life stage, we found no AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the Science Diet website.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Puppy
- Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Canine Adult
- Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Large Breed Puppy
Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Large Breed Puppy was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
Hill's Science Diet Healthy Advantage Large Breed Puppy
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Whole grain corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, liver flavor, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, dried egg product, soybean oil, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), fish oil, lactic acid, potassium citrate, iodized salt, choline chloride, dl-methionine, natural flavor, dicalcium phosphate, vitamins (l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), vitamin E supplement, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), vitamin E supplement, l-lysine, minerals (manganese sulfate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), l-tryptophan, taurine, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid, l-carnitine, phosphoric acid, beta-carotene, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.3%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||31%||17%||44%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||27%||36%||38%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
What’s more, corn is commonly linked to canine food allergies1.
For these reasons, we do not consider corn a preferred component in any dog food.
The second item is chicken by-product meal, a dry rendered product of slaughterhouse waste. It’s made from what’s left of a slaughtered chicken after all the prime cuts have been removed.
In addition to organs (the nourishing part), this stuff can contain almost anything — feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs — anything except quality skeletal muscle (real meat).
On the brighter side, by-product meals are meat concentrates and contain nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
In any case, although this item contains all the amino acids a dog needs, we consider chicken by-products an inexpensive, lower quality ingredient.
The third 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.
After the liver flavor, we find dried 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.
The sixth ingredient is flaxseed, 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.
The seventh ingredient is dried egg product, a dehydrated form of shell-free eggs. Quality can vary significantly. Lower grade egg product can even come from commercial hatcheries — from eggs that have failed to hatch.
In any case, eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.
The eighth item is 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.
The ninth item is animal fat. Animal fat is a generic by-product of rendering, the same high-temperature process used to make meat meals.
Since there’s no mention of a specific animal, this item could come from almost anywhere: roadkill, spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle — even euthanized livestock.
For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.
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 two notable exceptions…
First, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing.
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 Healthy Advantage Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Dog Food looks like a below-average kibble.
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 29% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 45% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 61%.
Near-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
In addition, when you consider the protein-boosting effect 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 Healthy Advantage is a corn-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of chicken by-product meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2.5 stars.
Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
08/21/2014 Last Update
- White, S., “Update on food allergy in the dog and cat”, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Vancouver, 2001 ↩