Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons

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hills science diet review

Our Final Verdict

We give Hill’s Science Diet dog food a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars:

Introduction

Hill’s Science Diet traces its origins back to the 1930s, when a man named Morris Frank was touring the country with his German Shepherd to promote the use of seeing-eye dogs for the blind. Unfortunately, Frank’s dog was in bad shape — his kidneys were failing, and he didn’t have much time left.

Desperate, Frank turned to Dr. Mark Morris, Sr. After analyzing the dog, Dr. Morris decided that the problem was poor nutrition, and he and his wife started making special food for Frank’s dog in their own kitchen.

The dog soon recovered, and Morris realized he was onto something. In 1948, he partnered with a man named Burton Hill to create canned dog food featuring his special recipe so that it could be sold nation-wide.

Colgate-Palmolive purchased Dr. Morris’s company in 1976, but they continue to manufacture high-quality food designed for dogs with health issues. The food is made in Topeka, Kansas, and each recipe is overseen by a staff of veterinarians and nutritional specialists.

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At a Glance: The Best Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Recipes

Dog FoodPriceFlavorSizes Available
Hill’s Science Adult
Hills Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Chicken & Barley Recipe(Our Favorite)

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Chicken & Barley5 lbs
15 lbs
35 lbs
Hill’s Science Adult Perfect Weight for Weight Management
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Perfect Weight for Weight Management

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Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice4 lbs
15 lbs
28.5 lbs
Hill’s Science 'Small Paws' Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs

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Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice4 lbs
15 lbs
Hill’s Science 'Small Bites' Adult Light for Weight Management
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Light for Weight Management

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Chicken Meal & Barley5 lbs
15 lbs
30 lbs
Hill’s Science Sensitive Skin & Stomach (Adult)
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach

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Chicken Recipe4 lbs
15.5 lbs
30 lbs

Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Reviewed

Who makes Hill’s Science Diet and Where is it Produced?

Hill’s Science Diet is owned by the Colgate-Palmolive Company, and it’s made in Topeka, Kansas. In addition to a food processing plant, the company also owns a nutrition center and a fully-equipped animal hospital to study the effects of its foods.

Which Types of Dogs is Hill’s Science Diet Best Suited For?

While just about any dog can benefit from eating this food, it’s primarily designed for dogs with health issues. The nutritious foods are designed to be the first step in attacking any problems plaguing animals, regardless of age or size.

Which Types of Dogs Might Do Better with a Different Brand?

Most of the brand’s foods are high in grains, which can be a source of empty calories. As a result, overweight dogs should probably eat something else, like Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Natural Adult Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food.

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Discussion of the Primary Ingredients

The first ingredient is chicken, so you know your dog is mostly getting lean protein with every bite. This gives him a solid nutritional foundation to build upon.

After that, things get a little dicey. The next ingredients are cracked pearled barley, whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, whole grain sorghum, and corn gluten meal. While you’ll find some fiber in there, it’s mostly empty calories. That’s not a good thing if your dog is overweight.

If you continue down the ingredients list, you’ll find things like chicken fat, chicken meal, and dried beet pulp, all of which are excellent for your dog. However, we question how much of those ingredients is actually in the food.

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Hill’s Science Diet is Excellent for Dogs with Health Problems

The food was originally crafted to address certain nutritional deficiencies, specifically those often found in dogs suffering from renal failure. Many of their recipes are targeted at specific ailments or conditions and are usually excellent foods for dogs with that condition.

However, that doesn’t always mean that it’s a great food overall. If your dog is healthy, he may benefit more from eating other food.

Thus, it’s hard to judge Hill’s Science Diet lines fairly, as they’re generally excellent for the purpose they were created for, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good all-around foods.

dog eating

This Food Has a Broad Nutritional Profile

The inclusion of ingredients like flaxseed, chicken fat, and dried beet pulp give your dog vitamins and minerals that are hard to find in other meats or veggies. This gives him the broad nutritional support he needs to grow — and stay — healthy.

Hill’s Science Diet is Very Low in Protein

At only 20%, this food is on the lower end of the protein scale. Most other high-end foods have quite a bit more than that.

This makes it harder to develop lean muscle, so younger dogs might need something with a little more meat inside.

A Quick Look at Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food

Pros
  • Excellent for dogs with health issues
  • Lean protein is the first ingredient
  • Boasts a broad nutritional profile
Cons
  • Overall protein levels are low
  • Filled with grains

Recall History

Hill’s Science Diet was one of over 100 brands involved in the melamine recalls of 2007. These recalls were started due to the inclusion of melamine, a chemical found in plastics. Thousands of pets were killed from eating tainted food, but it’s unknown how many — if any — died as a result of eating Hill’s Science Diet.

In June 2014, the company recalled 62 bags of their Adult Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food in three states due to a possible Salmonella contamination.

A year later, they recalled a few of their canned dog foods due to labeling issues. There were no known issues with the food itself, however.

Most recently, the company recalled several of their canned food lines due to potentially elevated levels of vitamin D. This action was taken in January 2019, but there were no known illnesses from eating the food.

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Reviews of the 3 Best Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Recipes

Hill’s Science Diet is a well-established brand with a broad range of flavors and recipes. Here’s an in-depth look at three of our favorites:

1. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Chicken &...
  • This dog food made with natural ingredients uses high quality, easy-to-digest ingredients to fuel...
  • Helps maintain a beautiful skin and a healthy coat by providing a precise balance of omega-6 &...

This food has quite a bit of omega fatty acids and vitamin E in it, making it a good choice for building a bright, shiny coat. Those fatty acids are also good for boosting immune response.

Chicken is the first listed ingredient, and beyond that, the food also has chicken fat, flaxseed, and chicken meal, all of which contain essential nutrients that dogs usually can’t get anywhere else. Despite having all these nutrients, this is a moderately-priced food.

Perhaps the reason why it’s relatively inexpensive is that it has a limited amount of protein — only about 20%. Also, it’s filled with filler grains like wheat and corn, which can cause digestive issues and provide empty calories.

Pros
  • Lots of omega fatty acids and vitamin E
  • Good for building a shiny, healthy coat
  • Broad nutritional profile
Cons
  • Not much protein inside
  • Filled with grains like wheat and corn
  • Not ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs

2. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Adult Perfect Weight for Weight Management

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Perfect...
  • Breakthrough adult dry dog food clinically proven for weight management
  • Over 70 % of adult dogs lost weight within 10 weeks when fed this safe & effective weight management...

This food’s ingredients list is very similar to the kibble above, with one key difference: it’s absolutely packed with fiber. You’ll find pea fiber, oat fiber, and dried beet pulp inside, all of which should get your dog’s bowels in tip-top shape.

The idea behind all that roughage is that fiber is good for overweight dogs, as it makes them feel full for longer, even if they haven’t eaten as much as they normally do. Also, being able to fully eliminate any waste can also improve their entire digestive system.

This food has more protein than the one above it, but it’s still on the low end of the spectrum. We like that they added coconut oil, though, as it’s full of omega fatty acids.

There are artificial flavors in here, which isn’t something you really ever want to see, plus there’s a fair amount of salt. It’s surprising to find those ingredients in a weight-control food, but we suppose the fiber offsets them somewhat.

This recipe also has highly nutritious fruits and veggies like broccoli, cranberries, and apples, but they’re buried so far down the ingredients list that we doubt they’ll have much of an impact.

Pros
  • Lots of fiber inside
  • Helps overweight dogs feel full while cutting calories
  • Includes coconut oil, which is rich in omega fatty acids
Cons
  • Has artificial flavoring
  • High salt content
  • Fairly low protein count

3. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food Adult 7+ for Senior Dogs Small Paws

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 7+ for...
  • Provides balanced minerals that support heart, kidney and bladder health in senior, small-breed dogs
  • A nourishing blend of omega-6s and vitamin E for healthy skin and a luxurious coat

As dogs age, their nutritional needs change, and they often don’t need as much protein, fat, or carbs as they used to. Senior Dogs Small Paws takes this into account, and ratchets the calorie count even further down to accommodate smaller pups.

The first ingredient is chicken meal, which includes a ton of important nutrients that can’t be found in leaner cuts of meat. Unfortunately, you also need the protein that’s in those lean cuts, and this formula is lacking in that department. There’s more fiber than in most other Science Diet formulas, though.

There are “superfoods” like flaxseed, cranberries, broccoli, and apples in here, all of which will give your pup a ton of important nutrients. We also like that they add taurine, which is essential for heart health, as many older dogs run the risk of suffering from coronary issues as they age.

There’s still quite a bit of grain in here, as well as artificial flavoring. We’d prefer it if those ingredients were cut out, but if your dog’s lived this long eating them, perhaps you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken.

Pros
  • Lower calories to accommodate aging dogs
  • Has superfoods like cranberries and flaxseed
  • Includes taurine for heart health
Cons
  • Very little protein
  • Filled with corn and wheat
  • Has artificial flavoring

What Other Users Are Saying

  • HerePup – “…real chicken, lamb, and salmon are always the first ingredient.”
  • Dog Food Guru – “Whether your dog is young, old, overweight, underweight, pregnant, allergic, or perfectly healthy, Science Diet’s got a formula that meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs.”
  • Amazon – As pet owners, we always double-check with Amazon reviews from buyers before we buy something. You can read these by clicking here.
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Conclusion

If your doctor has recommended that you feed your dog Hill’s Science Diet due to some medical condition, then, by all means, follow their instructions. This brand is one of the best for nourishing dogs struggling with infirmities.

It’s still a good food for healthy pups, and it’s moderately priced, but you can likely find better kibble if you’re willing to pay a bit more. The protein levels are especially low and they’re full of grains, and we generally recommend packing in the meat at the expense of corn and wheat.

Still, this is a fine food, and one your dog shouldn’t have any qualms about gulping down.