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Iams Proactive Health vs Hill’s Science Diet: 2023 Comparison

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By Nicole Cosgrove

IAMS vs Hills Science

When you take your dog down the food aisle or shop for dog food online, you may be overwhelmed by the multitude of brands and varieties. You want the best for your adored pup, but you also want to be responsible to your budget. If you attempt to conduct your own research, you may spend hours reading conflicting articles about ingredients, brands, and special formulas.

We’re here to help! We compared two of the most popular brands available, Iams Proactive Health vs Hills Science Diet. We’ve sorted through the good, the bad, and everything in between to provide you with helpful, straightforward information. We’ve assessed each brand’s choice of ingredients, as well as shared its company history, record of product safety, and overall performance and value.

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A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Hill’s Science Diet

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Hill's Science Diet Chicken & Barley Hill's Science Diet Chicken & Barley
  • Specially formulated for small and toy dog breeds
  • High-quality protein sources
  • Includes vitamins
  • minerals
  • antioxidants
  • and omega fatty acids
  • Runner-Up
    Second place
    Iams ProActive Minichunks Iams ProActive Minichunks
  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • Promotes muscle strength
  • Encourages healthy digestion
  • In a close head-to-head matchup, Hill’s Science Diet has the leading edge over Iams Proactive Health. For us, the higher quality of ingredients and the numerous selections of varieties and flavors become the determining factor. Although it falters a bit for its price and recall history, Hill’s Science Diet has come out on top for offering excellent choices for a wide range of breed sizes, such as Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small Bites, Chicken & Barley Recipe; for dietary needs, such as Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin, Chicken Recipe; and finally, for maturity level, such as Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Puppy, Small Bites, Chicken Meal & Barley Recipe.

    Read on to learn more about both brands of dog food and to find out whether you agree with our reasons for choosing Hill’s Science Diet as our winner.

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    About Iams Proactive Health

    • Affordable and a great value
    • Well-known, trustworthy company
    • Varied selection of recipes for puppies through mature dogs
    • Specialized for dog size, health concerns, and specific breeds
    • Complete nutrition to promote your dog’s overall health
    • No recent recalls
    • Made with byproducts and fillers
    • Lower in protein content

    Considered a trustworthy company for decades, Iams is known for its Proactive Health series of dry and wet dog food. This affordably priced dog food comes in a variety of options suitable for nearly every dog.

    The History of Iams Proactive Health

    The story of the Iams company begins in 1946 with its founder, Paul Iams, who had a business vision to innovate dog food. In the 1950s, Iams produced the first pet food that relied on protein sourced from animal-based ingredients. In every decade that followed, Iams continued to improve its recipe, as well as its marketing, setting the standard that many companies emulated.

    In 1982, Paul Iams retired and sold his company to his business partner. In 1999, Proctor & Gamble bought the company and held onto it until 2014, when Mars Incorporated took over the business, with the European portion of the company being run by Spectrum Brands. Today, Iams Proactive Health is made in the United States and has manufacturing plants in three locations: Ohio, Nebraska, and North Carolina.

    What Types of Dog Food Does Iams Proactive Health Offer?

    Iams Proactive Health offers over 20 dry dog food varieties and six wet dog food options. It has a line of wet and dry dog food tailored to your dog’s size and maturity. Iams Proactive Health offers breed-specific recipes for Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Labrador Retriever, Bulldog, and German Shepherd. It also provides choices for certain dietary needs, such as maintaining a healthy weight, grain-free diets, and a high-protein formula.

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    What Are Iams Proactive Health’s Most Used Ingredients?

    Iams Proactive Health jams six main ingredients that can be found throughout its many selections. These are: beet pulp, chicken, corn, fruits and vegetables, salmon and ocean fish, and wheat.

    On the upside, all of these pet food choices offers your dog plenty of nutritional value in the form of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as health-boosting omega fatty acids and added fiber.

    However, Iams Proactive Health also relies on lower-quality choices to keep its price lower. While real chicken may be the first ingredient in many of Iams Proactive Health’s most popular recipes, you’ll also find lower quality meat byproducts on the list. Also, corn has limited benefits and may act as a filler, which lowers the protein content.

    Am I Getting My Money’s Worth?

    With Iams Proactive Health, you can feel confident that you’re getting a great value. For an affordable price, you can give your dog a complete nutritional meal. While some of the ingredients may not be the highest quality, they still provide what your dog needs to lead a healthy, active life.

    Recall History of Iams Proactive Health

    Fortunately, Iams Proactive Health hasn’t needed to issue a recall in recent years. In 2011, the FDA issued a recall of Proactive Health Smart Puppy dry pet food due to aflatoxin contamination. In 2010 and 2013, Iams issued a recall related to salmonella contamination. Earlier in 2013, Iams Shakeable treats were recalled due to potential mold growth.

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    About Hill’s Science Diet

    • Science-based, long-time trusted company
    • Higher quality ingredients with no byproducts or fillers
    • Wide range of varieties and flavors
    • Specialized formulas for dog size and maturity
    • Selections that address many dietary concerns
    • Complete nutrition
    • More expensive
    • Recent recalls

    Known for its emphasis on science-based formulas, Hill’s Science Diet has been a long-trusted brand for dog owners. Hill’s Science Diet uses the expertise of over 200 vets, scientists, and pet nutritionists for the development of its wide selection of wet and dry dog foods.

    The History of Hill’s Science Diet

    A guide dog owned by Morris Frank in the 1930s became the inspiration for Hill’s Science Diet. Buddy the German Shepherd had been touring the country with Morris Frank in order to educate people about service dogs for the blind. Unfortunately, Buddy was suffering from kidney failure, prompting his owner to seek out help from Dr. Mark Morris, Sr. When it was determined that Buddy’s illness was a result of poor nutrition, Dr. Morris, along with assistance from his wife, Louise Morris, developed their own dog food in their kitchen.

    The first Hill’s Science Diet dog food was stored in glass jars, which broke too easily. Dr. Morris then decided to package the pet food in cans. In 1948, he partnered with Hill Packaging Company in Topeka, Kansas. Throughout the years and with the help of his son, Dr. Mark Morris, Jr., the company grew in success. In 1976, the Colgate-Palmolive Company purchased the company, and it continues to maintain the tradition of highly nutritional dog food. The company remains based at the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas.

    How Many Varieties of Dog Food Does Hill’s Science Diet Offer?

    Hill’s Science Diet offers numerous selections of both dry kibble and wet canned pet food for dogs of every size and any age, as well as formulas designed to meet many nutritional needs. Options are abundant in a full range of flavors. Hill’s Science Diet does not offer breed-specific formulas, considering them a marketing ploy.

    Our Favorite:

    Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food

    What Are the Common Ingredients in Most Hill’s Science Diet Dog Foods?

    Hill’s Science Diet offers a balance of wholesome proteins, grains, vitamins, minerals, fruits, and vegetables. Many of its recipes include chicken and whole grains as the first ingredients.

    Hill’s Science Diet lists certain ingredients that may give skeptical dog owners pause. However, our research has found that inclusions of pet foods such as corn and meat meal actually enhance the recipe’s nutritional value. On its website, Hill’s Science Diet shares how it prepares corn for its dog recipes and its benefits.

    As for meat meal, this term is not to be confused with meat byproducts. For example, chicken byproduct, which can be found in Iams Proactive Health, contains any part of a chicken and is considered a low-quality ingredient. By contrast, chicken meal is made from fresh chicken meat that has been cooked to remove all its moisture. The protein source then becomes concentrated, which is an advantage for dry kibble.

    Is Hill’s Science Diet a Good Value?

    While it’s true that you’ll pay more, perhaps twice as much, for Hill’s Science Diet, you’ll be able to provide your dog with higher quality ingredients that don’t contain by-products or unnecessary fillers. If you compare the price of Hill’s Science Diet to other premium dog food brands, you’ll find that Hill’s Science Diet has a competitive and often, lower price. When we considered these factors, we concluded that Hill’s Science Diet has good overall value.

    brown poodle
    Photo by Tra Tran on Unsplash

    Recall History of Hill’s Science Diet

    Last year, in January 2019, Hill’s Pet Nutrition reportedly received word that a dog had died from Vitamin D toxicity after eating one of its canned products. Within two months, 33 canned dog food varieties of Science Diet and Prescription Diet were recalled by the FDA for potentially toxic levels of Vitamin D.

    Before this most recent recall, in November 2015, Science Diet canned dog food products were removed from shelves due to labeling issues. In June 2014, the FDA recalled Science Diet Adult Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food in three states, California, Hawaii, and Nevada, due to potential salmonella contamination.

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    The 3 Most Popular Iams Dog Food Recipes

    1. IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Minichunks Chicken Dry Dog Food

    Iams ProActive Health Adult MiniChunks Dry Dog Food

    The top-rated Iams dry dog food on Amazon, this recipe earns its approval from satisfied owners of dogs responding in good health after regularly consuming this dog food. With the first ingredient listed as farm-raised chicken, this formula promotes muscle strength, encourages healthy digestion, and boosts your dog’s immune system and metabolism. Many dogs like the taste. Unfortunately, some dogs experienced stomach upset. This dog food includes byproduct ingredients.

    • Top rated on Amazon
    • Real chicken is the first ingredient
    • Promotes muscle strength
    • Encourages healthy digestion
    • Boosts immune system and metabolism
    • Many dogs like the taste
    • Some dogs had stomach upset
    • Includes byproduct ingredients

    2. Iams Dry Dog Food Chicken Proactive Health Mature Food for Dogs, Small & Toy Breed

    Iams Healthy Aging Mature & Senior Large Breed with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food

    This specially formulated pet food recipe is designed to promote your aging dog’s wellness and nutritional needs. This selection is formulated with antioxidants to strengthen your senior dog’s immune system, key nutrients intended to help with bone and joint care, fiber and prebiotics to aid digestion, and protein provided by real chicken as the first ingredient. While most dog owners agree that this formula benefits their older dog, a few dog owners described some stomach upset with this recipe. Keep in mind that this dog food contains lower quality byproducts.

    • Specially formulated for mature dogs
    • Protein provided by real chicken
    • Antioxidants, nutrients, fiber, and prebiotics
    • Strengthens immune system
    • Encourages bone and joint care
    • May cause stomach distress
    • Contains byproduct ingredients

    3. Iams Proactive Health Puppy Chicken Dry Dog Food, All Breed Sizes

    Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food

    Formulated for your puppy’s specific nutritional needs and overall wellness, this Iams selection pet food contains all 22 key nutrients that are found in a mother’s milk and essential omega 3 DHA, which enhances cognition for smarter puppies who are easier to train. Much of the protein is provided through real chicken as its first ingredient. Your puppy will benefit from strengthened muscles and healthier joint development. This pet food recipe contains lower quality byproducts and fillers. Some puppies suffered from diarrhea after consuming this dry dog food.

    • Created for your puppy’s growing needs
    • Contains 22 key nutrients
    • Omega 3 for cognitive development
    • Protein supplied through real chicken
    • Contains byproducts
    • Some puppies experienced diarrhea

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    The 3 Most Popular Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Recipes

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

    Hill's Science Diet Adult Small Bites Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Hill’s Science Diet offers a line of adult dog food that is specially formulated and adapted for your dog’s size. This selection, which is ideal for small and toy breeds, ensures that the kibble size and shape are adjusted for a smaller dog.

    While this brand is higher in price, it’s made with high-quality ingredients. Real chicken is the first ingredient, followed by other beneficial protein sources, to help your dog maintain lean muscle. Additional whole grains, vitamins, minerals, fruits, and vegetables provide natural fiber, antioxidants, and essential omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E for healthy skin and coat.

    Dogs tend to like the flavor. But be aware that your dog may like it so much, unwanted weight gain is possible. Dogs with sensitivities to grains may experience skin and stomach issues.

    • Specially formulated for small and toy dog breeds
    • Kibble size and shape adapted for dog’s size
    • High-quality protein sources
    • Complete nutrition
    • Includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids
    • Maintains lean muscle
    • Encourages healthy skin and coat
    • Higher priced
    • May cause weight gain
    • Not for dogs with grain allergies

    2. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin, Chicken Recipe

    Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin

    In a line of dog food that addresses certain health concerns, this grain-free pet food option made with only natural ingredients helps dogs who have a sensitive stomach and experience skin reactions. The prebiotic fiber in this recipe works to alleviate stomach issues and to improve your dog’s digestive health. With plenty of vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids, your dog’s skin and coat will benefit.

    While many dogs saw significant improvement with their stomach and skin issues, some dogs continued to experience intestinal upset. Be aware that this recipe includes potatoes and peas, which have been linked to heart disease, especially with certain dog breeds.

    • Grain free
    • Ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin issues
    • Only natural ingredients
    • Included prebiotic fiber
    • Contains vitamin E and omega 6 fatty acid
    • More expensive
    • May not help every dog
    • Includes potatoes and peas, which may lead to heart disease

    3. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Puppy, Small Bites, Chicken Meal & Barley Recipe

    Hill's Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development Small Bites Dry Dog Food

    Hill’s Science Diet offers a variety of dog foods created for every phase of your dog’s life from puppy through adult through their advanced years. This puppy recipe is created to support your puppy’s growing needs. Most puppies enjoy the small kibble and the chicken flavor.

    This puppy food contains only natural ingredients. It has essential DHA from fish oil for improved cognition and vision, high-quality protein for growing muscles, and vitamins and minerals to strengthen teeth and bones.

    Some puppies did not care for the taste, and a few puppies suffered from intestinal issues and stomach upset.

    • Ideal for puppies
    • Small kibble
    • Flavor most puppies enjoy
    • Natural ingredients
    • Essential DHA
    • High-quality protein
    • Added vitamins and minerals
    • Costs more than similar puppy food
    • Some puppies do not like the taste
    • A few puppies experienced stomach issues

    Comparing Iams Proactive Health vs. Hill’s Science Diet

    When determining which well-known brand of dog food to list as our winner, we needed to take several factors into account. We’ll explain how both Iams Proactive Health and Hill’s Science Diet perform within the categories of company credibility, price and value, variety of selections, quality of ingredients, and recall history.

    Company Credibility

    Both Iams and Hill’s have been trusted names for pet owners for decades and have made valuable contributions to the development of complete and nutritional commercial dog food. Today, both Iams and Hill’s provide user-friendly and informational websites, reasonable customer service, and strive to offer products that benefit the health of the pets who consume them. Since it’s too close to call in this category, it’s a tie.

    Variety of Selections

    Both Iams and Hill’s offer a wide variety of selections that specialize in your dog’s size, maturity from puppy through advanced adulthood, and certain health concerns. Hill’s Science Diet gets the win for having far more numerous choices, as well as a broader range of flavors.

    Quality of Ingredients

    The clear winner for the higher quality of ingredients goes to Hill’s Science Diet. While Iams Proactive Health offers complete nutrition and real chicken as its first ingredient, it incorporates meat byproducts and fillers into its recipes. Hills Science Diet relies on healthier real meat and meat meal for its protein sources and whole grains to provide carbohydrates and fiber.

    Price and Value

    Iams Proactive Health has the least negative impact on your budget, as it’s generally half as costly as Hill’s Science Diet. When considering value, both companies have their respective merits. While Hill’s Science Diet will cost you more, you’re getting a higher quality grade of ingredients. However, Iams Proactive Health provides a complete and nutritional meal for your dog at a lower cost, which earns it the win for price and value.

    Recall History

    Unfortunately, both Iams Proactive Health and Hill’s Science Diet have needed to issue recalls within the last 10 years. Iams Proactive Health last issued a recall in 2013, while Hill’s Science Diet needed to recall its canned dog food last year. For a longer record of quality control, Iams Proactive Health wins this category.

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    Iams Proactive Health vs Hill’s Science Diet: Which Should You Choose?

    It was difficult to determine a winner. When we tallied which food brand won each category, we discovered a tie. Iams Proactive Health won for being a better value and having a better reliability record with fewer recalls. Hill’s Science Diet exceeded with higher quality ingredients and a wider selection and variety of dog foods. Both food brands have long, trustworthy traditions.

    In the end, we chose Hill’s Science Diet because we gave higher priority to the category of ingredient quality. The ingredients you feed your dog every day matters and in the long term, makes the most significant impact on your dog’s overall health. Higher quality ingredients simply come at a higher cost.

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