Hills Science Diet Small Bites Puppy -- A Dog Food Product Review (Comparison to Pedigree), Pet Nutrition for Puppies

The dog discussed in the review, two days after she was adopted from the animal shelter.
The dog discussed in the review, two days after she was adopted from the animal shelter. | Source

At the beginning of October a new critter came into my life. This skinny, scraggly mutt with her harsh and discolored coat, crooked leg from an untreated break, and absolute lack of social skills stole my heart when she first looked up at me -- tail tucked firmly between her legs and shaking like a leaf -- with those big, brown eyes just begging for a loving home. Who could say no to that? Not long afterward, this ungainly Miniature Schnauzer/Miniature Pinscher mix came home.

The Dog in Question

In the past I've always wanted to give my dogs the best, but my pocketbook hasn't always allowed for it. This time, with this new puppy, I had the means to spoil her and intended to do so. Despite various controversies over the various commercially-available store-bought foods, my dogs have always done well on them and having a locally readily available food is essential to me. While the nutritional offerings continue to be discussed from both sides, it is still much better nutrition for dogs than most humans habitually give themselves.

My pup was rescued from a very bad situation when she was four months old. Up until that point she had only ever been fed table scraps and her mother's milk, who was also fed only on table scraps...and that obviously being an insufficient amount of scraps. The local animal shelter fed her on Pedigree Healthy Bites Puppy for two months until I adopted her when she was six months old.

Though the Pedigree helped her gain a little bit of weight, it really hadn't done much good and her coat was extremely harsh and wiry. A visit to the vet revealed that she had tapeworms, but those were quickly eradicated. Giving the vet a detailed explanation of her past and the past food (or lack thereof) that she was used to, my vet recommended that I switch her to Science Diet. A trip to the local feed store revealed Science Diet Small Bites Puppy (also recommended for pregnant and nursing dogs), so I took it home and started the switch.

The Nitty-Gritty Details (from the bag, also available on the Science Diet website)

Ingredients:

Ground 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, 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, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

Nutrients based on a percentage of dry matter:

Protein ....................32.0%
Fat.........................22.9%
Carbohydrate (NFE)....33.0%
Crude Fiber...............3.6%

Calcium..................1.48%
Phosphorus...............1.21%
Sodium...................0.60%
Potassium................0.89%
Magnesium..............0.113%
Vitamin C...............407 mg/kg
Vitamin E...............674 IU/kg
DHA.....................0.220%
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Total...1.05%

Bringing the Food Home

A 20-pound bag of Science Diet Small Bites Puppy costs about $25 at the local store, and about $30 in most of the vet's offices. While this may seem somewhat expensive, especially compared to the Pedigree Puppy at $16 per bag, it is definitely worth the difference. The first thing I noticed when I opened up the bag was the smell...it's a wonderful odor for a dog food, as my dog quickly agreed, smelling mainly of fish oil. The pieces are about a quarter-inch in diameter, making them much easier for my 13-pound puppy to eat compared to the Pedigree Puppy, which had kibble nearly twice the size. For my puppy's size and age the bag recommends 1 ½-1 ¾ cups of food per day, though she has only recently started to eat that much (four months later). Each bag has lasted me about 2 ½ months, though I haven't had any issues with it going stale, she loves the last bit just as much as the first scoop from a freshly-opened bag.

Switching Over

While it is important to be careful when switching to a new dog food with any dog, my vet assured me that it was especially important to take pains with this puppy. She had already recently been switched to one type of food and was used to extreme deprivation before that, so the vet warned me that anything richer might cause some system difficulties. With the help of a pound of Pedigree given by the shelter, I began the gradual switch, adding in more Science Diet every day. However, the switch-over didn't go seamlessly...she liked the smell of Science Diet so much better than the Pedigree that she was constantly picking through her dish for the Science Diet morsels first, only eating the Pedigree when it was the only thing left.

Experiences

I've already mentioned that my puppy liked to pick out only the Science Diet kibble to eat during the switching over, and maybe that's why she had some gas issues for nearly a month after starting on Science Diet. Another plausible explanation is that it is a much richer food than she'd ever had before, and it may have just taken time for her body to get used to it. Whatever the reason, for her first month with me there would often be random, wafting odors of Science Diet rising from her...thankfully, it did get better, but be warned that this might be a possibility.

While I'm sure the de-worming helped some in improving my pup's condition, the drastic changes we've seen in her over the last four months have to be at least partly due to the improvement in food. Previously 13.5 pounds, she quickly filled out, gaining about another two pounds, and lost the lanky skin-and-bones look that the Pedigree had failed to rid her of. She hit a healthy weight about two months into feeding Science Diet, and has remained steadily at that weight for another two months so far, despite a bitterly cold winter that keeps her from playing outside much or going for many walks.

Next, the change in her coat has been astounding. Previously sporting a relatively flat, extremely harsh wiry coat, she changed dramatically in the first couple of months of starting on this food. Her coat softened considerably and lost all of its wiriness, and an undercoat grew in that she'd never had before. Her coat has also grown longer, though this could be partially due to her age, and has taken on distinct Schnauzer characteristics.

Four months after adopting this puppy from the local shelter, she has gone from what my husband termed "the ugliest dog in the pound" to an adorable, irresistible bounding ball of energy that even those who rescued her barely recognize. She is developing very well and, apart from her crooked leg, no one would ever guess what kind of start she had. Overall, this is an excellent food that has had some very obvious results, and the puppy loves it. There is no doubt that when she hits 12 months, she will be switched to the adult dog version of this food, it is definitely worth the price and comes highly recommended from the local vet.

(Note: Review originally written in 2009, and the dog mentioned continues to thrive on Small Bites for adult dogs.)

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