Hill’s Science Diet and Me

Science Diet logo So how did I become a shill for Hill’s Science Diet?  They’re sure not paying me.  In fact, it was their latest price increase that got me thinking about this.  No, it all started in 1981, when I got into the dog business for the first time.  I had never had a dog of my own  when I was growing up.  We had spent nearly two years researching the breed and bloodlines and finding a breeder and reserving a puppy.  This would be the super-dog (would uberhundt be more accurate for a Rottweiler?).

When I was in veterinary school we learned a lot about basic nutritional principles.  However, when it came to what you would actually feed your pets, it pretty much came down to “feed dog food”.  Yes, it’s complete and balanced nutrition for your pet… if you believe the advertising.

Anna 6 mo (2) When we picked up Anna, the breeder had this long list of things we were supposed to supplement her with.  No matter what type of puppy food we used, Rottweilers (supposedly) needed so much bone meal, calcium pills, cottage cheese, raw eggs, canned peaches, little colored marshmallows and I don’t know what all.  My wife is feeding me cold sandwiches, but I have to cook for the dog.  Right.

Now these breeder folks weren’t dopes.  Their dogs looked great and they were winning in national specialty shows.  On the other hand, my professors had said “feed dog food”.  I got the feeling there must be some middle ground, so I began calling around until I found some big nutrition experts.

The nutrition gurus told me that early commercial dog foods (as in 1950’s and before) weren’t that great.  Dog owners who wanted serious performance (hunting, breeding, showing, obedience competition) found that they had to supplement to get good results.  If you’ve ever been involved in any competitive endeavor, you know that when somebody wins, all the other competitors jump on their bandwagon.  You do what the winners do, because that’s what it takes to WIN.

Even though name-brand dog foods had improved dramatically, the tradition of supplementing to win had become cast in stone.  Hence, the breeder’s insistence on providing a smorgasbord for my puppy.

I decided to bite the bullet and follow the advice of my professors: “feed dog food”.  BUT, I decided to get what I thought was the best dog food.   I picked Hill’s because the company was founded to make prescription diets for dogs with special medical needs.  From there they branched out into optimum nutrition for normal dogs (unlike other companies that started as livestock feed operations, branching out into pet foods; we’re talking 1981, remember).   I fed Anna nothing but Science Diet puppy formula and she did absolutely great, so I was sold on it. 

So, that’s the nutritional testimonial aspect.  Stay tuned for the business aspect.

16 thoughts on “Hill’s Science Diet and Me

  1. Sheila says:

    Glad you mentioned this….For a few years, at the advice of my veterinarian here in my new living location, I have fed my senior dogs Science Diet Advanced Protection Senior. Supposed to be the most advanced thing for improving their senior years, meeting the senior nutrition needs, helping their senior cognitive function, bla, bla. Yes, at first it really did seem to help Squirt, the old wire hair doxie who was slipping into cognitive dysfunction, so I continued to feed it. My seniors have done well with it. So, last week. my vet’s office clerk told me Hill’s has discontinued making this super-duper-better-than-sliced-bread senior food. What??@@!!! How can they just quit making something they have told us for years was the very best thing on the market?? And no substitute newer-more-super-duper food to switch to?? Well, you know what has happened to my opinion of their credibility with this event. So, we are in the process of switching our seniors over to another brand, NOT one made by Hill’s. And, no, this new brand is not any less expensive, but it does have some things I have read are good for senior dogs’ bodies and minds. I will be glad to post an update on the progress if any other readers are interested in some ideas for new food to feed their senior dogs.

  2. Doobie says:

    With all due respect, feeding a dog real dog food would mean feeding a species appropriate diet. For dogs, that isn’t something out of a bag – no matter how optimally nutritional it says it is – that lists grain as the number one ingredient – or any number ingredient for that matter. I’ve yet to see dogs in the pature chowing down on wheat and corn. Allergies, dental issues, digestive and elimination issues, etc., can be and are the result of feeding any kibble, even the expensive, researched, Rx ones. Have you ever had a client who feeds raw meat and bones? The difference is amazing – I am conducting ongoing research with my own three dogs right now and am at the 1.5 year mark. The difference I’ve seen in teeth, coat, energy, absence of health issues, and elimination problems is truly amazing. Just a thought.

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Doobie,

    The test of a food is in the feeding. If your dog is looking well and feeling well, then that’s great.

    Studies of commercially available raw food diets, shipped frozen, found frequent instances of E.coli contamination. This may sound inconsequential for animals that routinely eat feces, but there are pathogenic strains. That’s why they recall the hamburger.

    Most people are unable to balance their own diets and are unlikely to be successful in balancing the dog’s intake without expert help. Their own nutrition would probably be a lot better if Purina made “People Chow”.

    You can’t rely on the dog’s nutritional wisdom, as he will eat anything that can’t get away from him. His “natural diet” is indeed whole animals, but would also include carrion, grubs and who-knows-what.

    Eating bones, cooked or uncooked, is a hazard for many animals. Some do well eating them every day, while others can’t deal with it at all.

    Your dog is not a wolf. He doesn’t have the dentition or the physical size or physical vigor of a wolf. Many domestic dogs resemble a toad with teeth more than they do a wolf.

    Again, if your dog is doing well on the diet you choose, that’s great. I cannot endorse it for the average pet-owner.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  4. Marmio says:

    Frogs? So the fact that their mDNA is over 90 percent identical, the fact that their digestive system is unchanged, the fact that they can trasmit diseases, interbreed, all this… Means nada?

    A “balanced” diet for a dog is meat and bone with some organ, more or less in proportion to a live animal. If they’ll eat a vegetable or piece of fruit, fine. If not, also fine. Dogs — wolves — are carnivores. Grains provide undigestible bulk.

  5. Shannon Watts says:

    The problem I have with Science Diet is the poor quality ingredients included despite the hefty price. You can find many foods with better quality ingredients for the same price. Look at the list below. All the listed foods have much better ingredients than Science Diet even though I selected their original formula or the one with the lowest price NOT the high end, best quality food they produce. SD uses cheap by-products of the human food industry (meat by-products, corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice), generic ingredients (animal fat – what animal?), and too few meat sources. For the same amount of money, people feeding Science Diet can greatly improve their animal’s nutrition. Same convenience of dumping dry food from a bag into a bowl daily. Same guarantee of “complete and balanced” nutrition. I think it’s a shame so many vets mislead their clients by recommending this low quality option. I don’t have a problem with vets selling food, just choose quality products (not Science Diet). It may have been the best quality available in 1981, but certainly isn’t now. If you think Science Diet is adequate, just read the ingredients listed below. Or better yet, try one of the premium foods for a few months and see the difference in your animal.

    I did not list all the ingredients for each food. I included everything up to the first fat source which should include the major components.

    Science Diet Adult Original Dry ingredients: Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Wheat, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean meal, Corn gluten meal, Animal fat

    Science Diet Puppy Original ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Animal fat

    Science Diet Advance Protection Senior 7+ ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal fat

    Innova Adult ingredients: Turkey, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Barley, Brown rice, Potatoes, Natural flavors, Rice, Chicken fat

    Wellness Chicken ingredients: Deboned chicken, Chicken meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Tomato pomace, Rye flour, Canola oil

    Canidae All Life Stages ingredients: Chicken meal, Turkey meal, Lamb meal, Brown rice, White rice, Rice bran, Peas, Potatoes, Oatmeal, Cracked pearled barley, Chicken fat

    Origen Adult ingredients: Deboned chicken, Chicken meal, Turkey meal, Russet potato, Lake whitefish, Chicken fat

    Solid Gold Mmillennia Beef and Barley ingredients: Beef, Beef meal, Brown rice, Millet, Rice Bran, Canola Oil

    To learn more on how to read labels and choose the best quality food you can afford try the following sites:

  6. Doc says:

    Hello, Marmio,

    As I said, the test of a food is in the feeding. If a dog looks and feels great and has a low-volume, firm stool, then he is digesting the diet well, and benefitting from it. If it were “undigestible bulk”, this would not be the case.

    Domestic dogs certainly share DNA and can interbreed with wolves. All human beings are even more closely related to one another. This does not mean that Woody Allen can equal The Rock’s athletic performance.

    You are entitled to your opinion. Every day I deal with dogs who are fed virtually anything you can imagine. Borderline (or worse) malnutrition is something I deal with constantly. My recommendations are based on what I see working, not someone else’s moral convictions.

  7. Doc says:

    Hello, Shannon,

    There are plenty of good foods on the market. I continue to feed the Hill’s products and am happy with them. If a client doesn’t feel he got his money’s worth, the guarantee is unconditional. You can feed forty pounds of it and get a full refund from me, right here, right now.

    There are also plenty of lousy foods on the market. I see dogs that are eating them, and they aren’t doing so well. The only general rule that I offer clients is to avoid generics and house-brands in dogs that are growing or from whom they need performance (breeding, hunting, showing, healing from an illness).

    You can make your purchases based on the ingredients that sound good to you. I’d rather have by-products from a chicken that was deemed fit for human consumption than a whole chicken that was condemned as unfit (which is the only way a whole chicken is going into dog food).

    The test of whether you’re getting your money’s worth is how your pet looks and feels. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

  8. Maayan Gordon says:

    I have loved dogs my entire life. I now own a black labrador/aussie mix and i am training a guide dog puppy who is a lab. I have worked in two vet clinics and i loved beeing able to help animals in need. I have also previously raised and trained a guide dog named Garth who I now miss very much. Because of my love of dogs I decided to start a store for dogs so I can continue to help them.

  9. Maayan Gordon says:

    I have loved dogs my entire life. I now own a black labrador/aussie mix and i am training a guide dog puppy who is a lab. I have worked in two vet clinics and i loved beeing able to help animals in need. I have also previously raised and trained a guide dog named Garth who I now miss very much. Because of my love of dogs I decided to start a store for dogs so I can continue to help them.

  10. Maayan Gordon says:

    I have loved dogs my entire life. I now own a black labrador/aussie mix and i am training a guide dog puppy who is a lab. I have worked in two vet clinics and i loved beeing able to help animals in need. I have also previously raised and trained a guide dog named Garth who I now miss very much. Because of my love of dogs I decided to start a store for dogs so I can continue to help them.

  11. Rebecca says:

    If you truly believe that the test of good food is how well your dog does it, switch to an actual high-quality food for a couple of months. The difference really is there.

    Certainly, a dog who has been eating trash scraps or Dog Chow is going to look better when you switch them to SD. Because SD IS better than what they were eating before. However, if you switch them from SD to something like Evo, they will look even better and be healthier.

    Sorry, I just don’t trust vets on giving me unbiased dog food advice anymore. They are constantly trying to sell us their food. The other day my parents bit the bullet and got an allergy test done on their dog. Poor guy is allergic to beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. What does the vet do? She promptly sells them the “Sensitive Skin” food, arguing that because it was heavily processed that it would be better for him. I wish I was joking. 😛
    Thankfully, they asked me if I knew of any foods that don’t contain those and now they have a list of quality foods that don’t contain the things he is allergic to.

    I respect that you see your dogs doing well on what you feed right now, that really is the test. But I thought I was feeding quality food before, and when I switched to an even higher quality, you could see the difference.

  12. Best diet pills says:

    I continue to feed the Hill’s products and am happy with them. If a client doesn’t feel he got his money’s worth, the guarantee is unconditional. You can feed forty pounds of it and get a full refund from me, right here, right now.

  13. Jeanne Weishar says:

    We have fed our 9 year old GSD Science Diet Advanced Protection since it came out. We have yet to find a satisfactory replacement. It may be conincidental but since we had to move to a different food … she either gets GI upset issues, becomes constipated, shows signs of stiffness, etc. We ruled out any medical issues – full CBC, urine & stool tests, ultrasound and everything is normal. Can anyone recommend a replacement OR what we should look for in a product? Right now, she is on Wellness for large breeds and she really isn’t any better.

  14. Jen says:

    The whole SD and Prescription Diet thing was a marketing thing that this company came up with when Colgate took over this company. Just like their slogan “4 out of 5 dentist recommend it.” The company thought using a slogan like “vet recommended’ would get huge market share. And they’ve gotten a strong hold on the whole veterinary industry. Their RX diets are not backed by science ( though they claim their studies are sound, they are most often flawed).

    I can’t stand Science Diet because of all the marketing and false slogans, and mostly because it’s overpriced, poor quality, highly processed, grain-based food. By-products and grains? Why is it so expensive and SO good? Hmmm…

    What about cats? Cats are obligate carnivores, Doc. I am aware of many cats who became overweight, diabetic, had urinary issues and GI issues after eating SD or other dry food full of grains and carbs. Cats need meat-based, high protein, low carb, moderate in fat and moisture-rich food for good health. Sure, some cats can survive eating grain-based food, but there are many diseases related to high carb, highly processed grain-filled pellets.

    Take a look at veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pierson’s site, http://www.catinfo.org.


  15. Doc says:

    Just goes to show that you can read anything on the internet, huh?

    Prescription diet K/D was the first product developed by Dr. Mark Morris, long before Colgate.

    Just as a “for instance” older cats with impaired kidney function can have significant improvements in length and quality of life by switching to K/D (or a similar product, like Purina N/F). Your assertion that there is no science in the formulation of prescription diets is mistaken. Results speak louder than soapbox preaching.

    Cats are indeed obligate carnivores,and do require amino acids that cannot be found in plant material. This does not mean that plant material cannot be incorporated in the diet.

    Cats eating their natural diet of whole small rodents ingest plant material from the digestive tract of their prey. Some attribute the desire of cats to eat grass to a craving for fiber or something else that would be present in the prey.

    Despite the fact that millions of cats do well on diets that differ radically from putting a mouse in a blender, there are many highly respected veterinarians who feel strongly that cats should eat only wet, meat-based diets.

    These veterinarians base their opinions on their clinical experience. I hope that eventually we will see actual experimental evidence to evaluate these viewpoints.

    Opinions are like certain body parts – everybody has one.

  16. Rich says:

    To commenter Jen above,

    I’ve put a lot of effort into getting the best food for my cat, but the problem is that he has a bad stomach issue and can only eat one type of food. I’ve tried most of them, but maybe not all. Do you have any recommendations?

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