You can find detailed information about Hill's Pet Nutrition, a subsidiary of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, the maker of Hill's Science Diet Pet Food, in our main Science Diet Dog Food review. There, you will also find information about how the food is made, recalls, and their quality control measures.
Hill's Science Diet provides more individualized foods for dogs with different health conditions and life stages than any other brand that comes to mind. If your dog has any kind of health issue, regardless of his age or condition, it's very possible that Science Diet has a food for him, or your vet can prescribe one of their Prescription Diets for him. Their Prescription Diets are costly and even their regular foods are expensive. Many people question whether these are good foods when they look at the ingredients, but dogs who eat these foods seem to do well.
Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Liver Flavor, Flaxseed, Soybean Oil, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Oil, Lactic Acid, Corn Gluten Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, Dried Egg Product, Iodized Salt, DL-Methionine, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Natural Flavor, 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, minerals (Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Tryptophan, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, L-Carnitine, Phosphoric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract
The first five ingredients in this food are: Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Liver Flavor and Flaxseed. There's not a petfood reviewer anywhere who's going to be kind to this food, despite the fact that it is only available through veterinarians. These are not the first ingredients in most dogs foods, or even in most Science Diet foods. You might find whole grain corn, chicken by-product meal, and even animal fat at the top of some ingredient lists, but it's doubtful that you will also see liver flavor and flaxseed in the top five ingredients. These ingredients indicate the food contains grains/carbs, animal protein, animal fat, added flavor, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. We'll have to look more closely to see some of the pros and cons of these ingredients.
According to the company this food is recommended for puppies up to 1 year old and pregnant or nursing dogs. Pregnant and nursing dogs have the same need for extra calories and nutrients as growing puppies, especially in the final weeks before delivery. The food is available exclusively from veterinarians and the company says it is uniquely formulated to help address five common health concerns for growing puppies.
The company claims that the food provides vitamin C and E for immunity in optimal levels of clinically proven antioxidants. They claim to provide high quality protein for ideal body weight and optimal growth and development. They also claim the food provides "clinically tested levels of omega fatty acids and provides the building blocks for healthy joints and cartilage" with omega fatty acids with natural glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. They also say the food provides healthy digestion with an optimal fiber mixture that helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and firm stools. This is done by using "natural vegetable fiber." Finally, the company claims it promotes healthy skin and a luxurious coat with omega fatty acids.
Looking over these claims briefly, vitamins C and E are antioxidants. That means they are preservatives, among other things. Yes, they are present in this food. Yes, they can do good things for your puppy but they are found in most dog foods. As far as "high quality protein," this food uses chicken by-product meal and some owners would balk at calling this a "high quality protein" on the grounds that by-products are not as desirable as whole meats or meals. The food does contain sources of omega fatty acids which are good for a dog/puppy's skin and coat, among other things. As far as glucosamine and chondroitin go, I am not aware of any studies that show it is beneficial to give it to dogs under one year of age. If you find evidence of this kind of study, we would like to see it. People who have large breed puppies/dogs may start to give their puppies glucosamine and/or chondroitin at a young age; and people with performance dogs often start to give their dogs these supplements at a young age. But, again, we are not aware of any studies that show puppies or dogs benefit from taking these supplements before they are a year old. Almost invariably, there is too little of these supplements in dog food to be of any real use to a dog. As for the "natural vegetable fiber" in the food for healthy digestion, we find that usually refers to powdered cellulose and many puppies/dogs have problems digesting it. It can result in loose stools, diarrhea, and flatulence.
So, while these claims may be true about what's in the food, we are more skeptical about how beneficial they are for your puppy.
The first ingredient in this food is whole grain corn. Coupled with the corn gluten meal farther down the list, this means the food contains quite a bit of corn but, if your puppy isn't allergic to corn, this shouldn't be a particular problem. The food obviously contains a lot of carbs from grains. Whole grain corn contains about 5 percent protein (this can vary depending on different factors), 9 percent fat, and about 86 percent carbohydrates. Much of the whole grain corn raised in the U.S. and Canada is sold for animal feed. Corn as a first ingredient is usually considered to be a bad sign in a food since ingredients are listed by weight before cooking. We don't automatically condemn all foods that contain grains but it's always better to see foods that emphasize animal proteins.
The second ingredient is chicken by-product meal. Chicken is a very good ingredient in dog food. It's about 80 percent protein and it's a good source of Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Niacin and Selenium. It's also a good source of glucosamine for joint health. A meal, such as this, already has most of the moisture removed so it contains even more protein than ordinary chicken by-products. However, chicken by-products (in this case, the meal) is considered to be a less desirable ingredient than either whole chicken or chicken meal. According to AAFCO, chicken byproduct meal: "consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice." Chicken is "the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails." In other words, chicken by-products will include the organs. Your dog probably won't mind, but many people prefer their puppies and dogs to only eat the external flesh of the chicken or the meat parts.
The third ingredient is Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid). This is also a less desirable ingredient since it is an unnamed source of fat. It could come from any kind of animal. In the dog food world, it's always better for ingredients to be identified as completely as possible so you know what your dog is eating. Mixed tocopherols are usually vitamin E and citric acid is a weak organic acid. It's a natural preservative. These ingredients are used to keep fat from spoiling.
The fourth ingredient here is liver flavor. While it's good that this flavor is identified (unlike "natural flavors" which often refers to monosodium glutamate or MSG as a flavor), it's very unusual to see a flavor in the top five ingredients. An ingredient like this will likely contain a lot of water and it may be liver cooked in water to add flavor to the food. But why is it the fourth ingredient? How bad does the food taste without it? You would probably be correct in thinking that this ingredient adds few nutrients to the food.
Overall, these ingredients seem to meet some of the company's claims about the food. However, these are unusual ingredients to find in the first five ingredients of a dog food or a puppy food. The food combines carbs from corn with animal protein from chicken by-product meal. The fat source is an unnamed animal fat. And the other top five ingredients are for flavor and probably for fatty acids. This suggests the food has the nutrients a puppy needs but they don't come from the very best ingredients.Additional Ingredients of Interest
This food contains soybean oil and it has many of the same issues as flaxseed (read more here).
Soybeans are a good source of protein and fat and they are low in carbs but they are a common cause of allergies in dogs. They are also a source of phytoestrogens which can play havoc with your dog's hormones to a certain extent.
The food also contains powdered cellulose. Cellulose in dog food usually comes from pine trees. It is mainly in insoluble fiber. Added in high amounts, it can have a negative effect on how your dog digests other ingredients in the food. It's often used in dog foods to make dogs feel full without adding a lot of calories. But it can cause dogs to have diarrhea and flatulence (read more here).
The food also uses corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal is derived from corn but it's not actually a gluten. It is a by-product of corn processing that contains corn proteins. It's often used in pet food as well as livestock feeds. Corn gluten meal contains no gluten. It has nothing to do with the kind of glutens you find in breads or other foods that contain glutens. If your dog is allergic to corn, he will be allergic to corn gluten meal because of the corn protein. But it has nothing to do with gluten. It's called a "gluten" simply because that's industry jargon. Corn gluten meal typically contains higher amounts of protein than ordinary corn which is one reason why it's added to pet food. It can contain as much as 60 percent protein on an as fed basis.
The food also contains fish oil which can be a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, depending on the kind of fish and other factors. Most people aren't aware that there are different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed and other plants can provide one kind but fish (particularly cold water fish) can provide a different, more beneficial kind (read more here).
The food also has dried egg product. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and they have great bioavailability for mammals. This means your dog can access the nutrients in egg products very easily. It doesn't really matter here that this is dried egg product. They have the same nutrients as fresh eggs.
For some reason we also see Vitamin E supplement listed twice in the ingredient list. This is probably an error. Vitamin E is used as a preservative for fats in dog food and it's also good for your dog's skin and coat.
You also find dried beet pulp in the food. There are some misconceptions about beet pulp, probably because of the name. Dried beet pulp is a natural, fermentable source of fiber. It is a wonderful addition to dog food to help move fecal matter along in the intestines. It also acts as a pre-biotic to help good bacteria grow in the gut.
Finally, we notice that the food contains some interesting additives toward the end of the ingredient list. L-Tryptophan, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, is an essential amino acid and it's commonly found in lots of foods such as red meat, dairy products, and some fruits and other plants. It's a building block for protein biosynthesis and a precursor for serotonin, Niacin, and Auxin. Niacin, in particular, helps keep the skin healthy (read more here).
L-Carnitine comes from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It helps the body turn fat into energy, among other things. Beta-Carotene is a carotenoid from plants that forms vitamin A in the body. It's good for vision, immunity, and other health benefits. You are probably most familiar with it in carrots. Rosemary Extract is a mild preservative. Dogs with epilepsy or other seizures may want to avoid foods that contain rosemary since there is some suggestion that rosemary can trigger seizures.
According to the guaranteed analysis, the food appears to contain higher levels of vitamin C and E, like many Science Diet foods. It also contains higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, than many dog foods.
The calcium to phosphorus ratio looks approximately correct for growing puppies.
Protein ..... 31.4
Fat ..... 23.0
Carbohydrate (NFE) ..... 33.7
Crude Fiber ..... 3.2
Calcium ..... 1.64
Phosphorus ..... 1.2
Sodium ..... 0.61
Potassium ..... 0.88
Magnesium ..... 0.114
Carnitine ..... 329.3 ppm
Vitamin C ..... 401 mg/kg
Vitamin E ..... 799 IU/kg
DHA ..... 0.207
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Total ..... 1.73
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Total ..... 4.77
Chondroitin Sulfate ..... 2123 mg/kg (ppm)
Glucosamine ..... 1203 mg/kg (ppm)
387 calories per 8 oz cup
Nutritional Adequacy Statement
Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Science Diet Healthy Advantage Puppy Dog Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for growing puppies and gestating/lactating adult female dogs.
Dry Matter Basis
On a dry matter basis, this food contains 31.4 percent protein and 23 percent fat. These are above average percentages of protein and fat. Fiber makes up 3.2 percent of the food which is a low percentage. The food contains 33.7 percent carbohydrates which is a low carbohydrate percentage compared to other commercial kibbles.
This food is probably controversial among people who look at dog food reviews, in particular because of its ingredients. In fact, we don't like the powdered cellulose at all. However, we do like the guaranteed analysis very much and we like the protein/fat/carb/fiber percentages for puppies. We also note that this food used feeding trials, unlike some of Science Diet's other foods with powdered cellulose. We cautiously recommend this food for puppies.
Science Diet Healthy Advantage Puppy Dog Food has received our 4 paw rating.