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Blue Buffalo vs. Hill’s Science Diet: A Dog Food Showdown

Looking at Blue Buffalo and Science Diet as potential food picks for your pup? We compare cost, quality, brand history, recalls, and more!

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Last Updated: August 30, 2021 | 11 min read

Blue Buffalo and Science Diet Dog Food in Bowl

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Comparing Blue Buffalo vs. Science Diet for your pup’s next dog food? Perhaps you are about to bring home your long-awaited puppy addition into your family, and you are trying to decide what to feed him? Or maybe your four-legged best friend has started to turn his nose up at his kibble, and you need to find him something new?

You’ve whittled down your choices to Blue Buffalo and Science Diet, but not sure which brand to pick? In this guide, we are going to help you choose. We will walk you through the brands, recall history, the ingredients they use, and where they source them from. As well as what they offer canines at each of their life stages.

Both Science Diet and Blue Buffalo are quality brands with similar price points, so it makes sense to compare the two.  By the end of this guide you will be able to decide which brand offers the best for you and your pooch. Let’s get started!

Blue Buffalo Puppy Formula
Our Rating

Best For Puppies

Blue Buffalo Puppy

View at Chewy.com
Science Diet Large Breed
Our Rating

Best For Adults

Science Diet Adult

View at Chewy.com
Blue Buffalo Senior
Our Rating

Best For Seniors

Blue Buffalo Senior

View at Chewy.com

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to Chewy.com, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Brand Histories

Science Diet vs Blue Buffalo Brand Comparison
Both Blue Buffalo and Science Diet have a good reputation in the dog food business.

Looking at the brand behind the products can often help owners in their decision about whether the company stands for the same things as they do. Such as all-natural ingredients, no by-products or following a whole-prey diet. So, what are these brands about?

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo is a very big brand in the pet food market, and they were established back in 2003 in Connecticut by the Bishop family. To put it into perspective, in 2017 their revenue amounted to $1.275 billion in net sales across America alone.

It all began when the family’s dog, Blue, passed away from cancer in 2002. They wanted to develop nutritious pet food that would provide pets with all the nutrition they needed to be as healthy as possible.

The family brand’s slogan is to “love them like family, feed them like family. Their website explains their story and processes, as well as each ingredient’s purpose. They also showcase their community work and have a direct contact number or email for customer support.

Science Diet

Science Diet is a line of pet food that is marketed by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, now part-owned by Colgate-Palmolive company. Their journey began in the 1930s when a dog owner asked a leading Veterinarian to create a pet food that would resolve his dog’s kidney failure.

After his success, the Veterinarian and his son began the business and created other condition-specific formulas. Since then they have created a vast pet food business that is one of the most well-known in America. They have other lines, but Science Diet is their most popular.

Science Diet’s slogan is “lifelong health starts with science”. They are also available on every online pet food platform and in most pet stores too. We’ve compared Science Diet a number of times to other competitors.

Recalls

FDA Recalls For Blue Buffalo and Science Diet
Both Blue Buffalo and Science Diet have had FDA recalls.

When the quality or the safety of products doesn’t meet expectations the pet food company themselves, or the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), recall and withdraw the affected products. It is an important part of the decision process to look at a brand’s recall history. As well as how the company deals with it afterward.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo have had a total of 7 dog food product recalls since 2003 (17 years at the time of writing). Using the FDA website and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) here is a brief history of these recalls:

April 2007: this was a worldwide issue that affected hundreds of brands, including some of Blue Buffalo’s products. Rice protein from a manufacturer that they used was contaminated with melamine. After investigation Blue Buffalo announced they would cease trading with the blamed manufacturers, who had sourced their ingredients from China.

October 2010: Blue Buffalo voluntarily recalled some products as they were found to potentially contain higher levels of vitamin D. After 16 dogs fell ill, it was found that they had all eaten the same Blue Buffalo recipe. All the dogs affected fully recovered.

November 2015: Blue Buffalo voluntarily recalled a small batch of chew bones because routine testing showed that there was the potential Salmonella contamination, but there were no reported illnesses.

May 2016: a limited batch of dry food was voluntarily recalled due to the potential for heightened moisture within packaging, which then led to moldy products.

February 2017: some wet tinned foods were voluntarily recalled due to possible aluminum contamination. Again, there were no reported illnesses or injuries.

March 2017 (1): Blue Buffalo voluntary recalled a small line of products due to an issue with the foil packaging. There were no reported illness or issues.

March 2017 (2): The FDA reported one case of a dog showing symptoms after potentially consuming excessive beef thyroid hormone levels to Blue Buffalo. They then voluntarily recalled one production lot after they discovered elevated levels of the naturally occurring hormone.

In 2014 Purina filed a claim against Blue Buffalo for false advertising. They discovered poultry by-product meal ingredients in their recipes, despite Blue Buffalo claiming to never to use by-products. After investigation Blue Buffalo admitted that this was true, blaming their supplier, and they corrected the issues.

Science Diet

Science Diet’s dog foods have only had three recalls that we can find. This is excellent given the length of time that they’ve been around, as well as the multiple food lines that they carry in their lineup.

June 2014: Science Diet voluntarily recalled 62 bags of kibble because they had the potential to contain Salmonella. There were no reported issues.

January 2019: Science Diet voluntarily recalled a selection of canned dog foods due to the potential for elevated levels of vitamin D. This was blamed on supplier error.

March 2019: Science Diet expanded the January 2019 recall to other products following more vitamin D issues.

Food Ingredients

Healthy Dog Food Ingredients
Both Brands use high quality ingredients in their dog foods.

This is the biggest difference between the two brands, and usually the deciding factor for owners. They have a different stance on what ingredients they use. Whatever side of the fence you sit on both brands are popular and successful. So, let’s take a closer look at what they put into their recipes.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo only uses natural ingredients in their recipes. They promise never to use by-products, and only real meats. The first ingredient on their list is always deboned meat, usually followed by another meat or meat meal.

They use the typical meat sources such as Chicken, Turkey, Salmon, Beef and Lamb. They also use other more unusual meats and fish such as Alligator, Rabbit, Quail, Sardines and Shrimp to name a few. This is great for fussy pooches or those with certain meat intolerances. They also have Chicken free recipes which many brands do not offer.

Blue Buffalo has a good selection of grain inclusive and grain free recipes. Their grain inclusive recipes never list any corn, wheat or soy. Instead they list gentle fibers such as oatmeal and brown rice. Blue Buffalo are guilty of ingredient splitting, which is a controversial ingredient listing technique to make recipes appear meatier than they might be. Unless you buy a super-premium brand, you’ll find that most brands including Blue Buffalo and other competitors use this technique.

In addition to the natural fruits and veggies, Blue Buffalo also includes their LifeSource Bits in every recipe. These are kibble pieces packed full of extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that dogs need and cannot get from meat alone.

Blue Buffalo states that all of their dog recipes are manufactured in America. Their website does not state where all of their ingredients are sourced, leading us to believe that some of their ingredients are sourced from outside the USA. This is not a great practice, but unfortunately, one that most brands use unless you opt for a super-premium brand.

Science Diet

As you already know, Science Diet claims that all of their recipes are based on science. As a result, they believe that natural dog food does not always mean the best for Fido. So, their ingredients aren’t always natural, which some consumers do not like. They commonly use artificial additives and preservatives, which can be irritating to dogs with sensitive stomachs. They also list artificial flavors such as Chicken liver flavor instead of natural flavors. Natural preservatives and flavors are a much better way to preserve and add flavor to pet food.

Science Diet uses real meats, usually the first ingredient, but this is not always the case unlike Blue Buffalo. They also use meat by-products, which is a very controversial ingredient that is essentially all the remaining animal carcass that is of very poor quality. This could include bones, organs, blood, and beaks. Again, their science research states that this is okay, but this is something that does not sit right with most owners. Many brands use these in their foods, including both Science Diet and other brands like Royal Canin.

Science Diet is a grain inclusive line only, and there is only 1 grain free option which is their kibble specifically designed for adult dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs. This is great for those owners who are happy to feed their pooch grain-based diets. They also use corn, wheat and soy ingredients too.

Science Diet do not appear to use the ingredient splitting technique, they simply list what they use, which is a lot more transparent for their consumers. Their packaging states that their products are “made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust”. Like most brands, they are not totally clear as to what ingredients are sourced from what countries.

Do Grain-Free Dog Foods Lead to Heart Issues?

Several studies have shown that grain free dog food is contributing to heart issues in some dogs, specifically a condition called Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). But the research performed by the FDA found this to be a much more complex concern that may have other contributing factors as well. For this reason, it is recommended to speak with your veterinarian before transitioning your dog to a grain-free diet.

Range of Formulas

It is important that brands offer a variety of recipes because not all dogs like the same ingredients or have the same needs. This is also true of owners and their differing budgets.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo has a total of 8 product lines. They have their Life Protection Formula, Basics, Wilderness, Freedom, Carnivora, Baby Blue, True Solutions, and their Natural Veterinary Diet. All cater to different nutritional needs and owner budgets. In total they have 98 dry kibble products across all their ranges.

Science Diet

Hill’s Pet Nutrition offers 4 product lines in total. Science Diet is one line produced by Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Overall, there are a total of 42 dry kibble formulas in the Science Diet range. To put it into perspective against Blue Buffalo, Hill’s Pet Nutrition offers 87 dry kibble products in total.

Puppy Formulas

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Formula

Blue Buffalo Puppy Formula Life Protection
  • Best food for puppies.
  • Omega 3’s and 6’s.
  • Antioxidants for immune health.
  • No corn, wheat or soy.
  • Puppy-sized kibble for small mouths.
  • 398 Calories per cup.
  • 27% Protein, 16% Fat, 5% Fiber.
View at Chewy.com

Puppy nutrition is so important that it can shape the health of your pooch for the rest of his life, so you need to get this right.

Blue Buffalo

In total there are 18 puppy formulas across 5 different lines – Life Protection, Basics, Freedom, Wilderness, Carnivora. These offer puppies a choice between an all-encompassing recipe, a limited ingredient recipe, a simple grain-free recipe and a protein-rich recipe. Their Carnivora recipe focuses on a whole-prey diet that is rich in meat, organs, and cartilage without any pea ingredients.

Their selection offers both grain-free and grain inclusive recipes, and they cater their foods to small breed puppies and large breed puppies as well. Across the lines there are a variety of meat options. There are even options suitable for giant breed puppies.

Science Diet

Science Diet offers a total of 6 puppy kibbles. They have 2 options for large breeds, and 1 option for toy dogs and 1 for small breed dogs. They have a standard recipe and 1 that specifically has no wheat, corn, or soy for those sensitive pups.

As we have already mentioned, there are no grain-free options as Science Diet does not offer this. However, they cover every breed size which many other brands fail to do.

Winner

Both brands cover every breed size which is fantastic. However, Science Diet only offers 2 flavor options. 5 of these are Chicken and 1 is Lamb, and unfortunately, the Lamb kibble still lists Chicken and egg ingredients. So, there are not any options for those puppies who either need a grain-free diet or who are allergic to Chicken ingredients. So, Blue Buffalo wins this puppy round.

Adult Formulas

Hill's Science Diet Adult Food

Science Diet Larger Breed
  • Best food for adults.
  • Omega 6 acids for coat health.
  • Glucosamine boost for joint health.
  • Antioxidant blend for immune health.
  • Made in the United States.
  • 363 Calories per cup.
  • 20% Protein, 11.5% Fat, 4% Fiber.
View at Chewy.com

Typically from the ages of 1 year to 7 years, most dogs are considered to be in the adult stage. The adult diet should be well-balanced.

Blue Buffalo

Across their 8 different lines of food, Blue Buffalo offers a total of 73 adult kibbles.

There are 13 options for toy and small breeds, and 15 options for large breeds, all with different formulas and flavors. In addition, there are 2 small bite options which are specifically designed for those dogs who need smaller and easy to chew kibble pieces.

Blue Buffalo also offers a variety of healthy weight products for different breed sizes. There are grain inclusive and grain-free options, as well as different meat proteins and flavors. Chicken and poultry free recipes are also available for dogs who need an alternative formula.

Science Diet

Science Diet offers a total of 28 adult kibbles. They list options for each breed size, including toy and large size. Science Diet also uses Chicken and Lamb as their primary protein source. They also have grain inclusive options that do not use wheat, corn or soy for every breed size too.

They also have kibbles that target specific conditions, such as oral care, healthy mobility, joint care or for those with digestive sensitivities. As well as healthy weight management.

Winner

We do not like that Science Diet does not offer grain free options for those who need it, or that they only use Chicken and Lamb. But we do like that they offer a wide range of kibbles that cater to specific health issues without the need for a Veterinary prescription which Blue Buffalo do not. We say that Science Diet just tips the variety scales in this round.

Senior Formulas

Blue Buffalo Grain Free Freedom Senior Formula

  • Best food for seniors.
  • Grain-free recipe.
  • Taurine for heart health.
  • Glucosamine for joint health.
  • No by-products or artificial flavors.
  • 380 Calories per cup.
  • 18% Protein, 10% Fat, 7% Fiber.
View at Chewy.com

Dogs typically enter their senior years from the age of 7 to 9. Your senior pooch will need a well-balanced diet that offers less fat, less energy, and extra vitamins and minerals for his immune system. He will also need a higher glucosamine and chondroitin content to support his aging joints.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo offer just 7 senior kibbles across their Life Protection, Freedom, Basics Limited, and Wilderness product lines. These include grain inclusive and grain free options. As well as an option for both small and large breeds.

Blue Buffalo offers an average glucosamine and chondroitin content across the board. With the exception of the large breed option, where they offer a much higher content which is important for large breeds.

Science Diet

Science Diet offers 5 senior kibbles, 1 of which is specifically designed for small senior seniors aged 11+ years. They have one option for large breeds.

Science Diet does not list their glucosamine or chondroitin content on their website for most of their senior products. This is strange as this is an important nutritional detail for seniors, so this isn’t comparable.

Winner

Blue Buffalo offers options for all senior sizes, as well as grain free and grain inclusive options. They are also transparent with their glucosamine content unlike Science Diet, so we have to crown Blue Buffalo the winner in this round.

Wet Foods

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Wet Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wet Food Homestyle
  • Wet Dog Food pick.
  • Real beef as first ingredient.
  • Perfect to mix with dry food.
  • Supports lean muscle growth.
  • Includes fruits and vegetables.
  • 398 Calories per cup.
  • 8.5% Protein, 6% Fat, 1.5% Fiber.
View at Chewy.com

Wet foods are a great option for those dogs who like juicy food with extra flavor on top of their dry kibbles. So, let’s see what each brand offers.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo offers a total of 101 wet foods. All dog sizes are catered for, as are the different life stages. They also provide grain inclusive and grain free options so there is something here for every dog and owner.

Science Diet

Science Diet offers 16 wet food options. There are formulas for every life stage, but again there are no grain free options or many flavor choices.

Winner

Blue Buffalo has many options and caters to every size and life stage. They also offer grain inclusive and grain free options, so Blue Buffalo wins the wet food competition.

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to compare these two as we have with other brands as Blue Buffalo is the brand with several formula lines, and Science Diet is one formula line from within a brand. However, our readers have asked us to compare so we have delivered!

This comparison article simply comes down to whether you prefer an all-natural diet, or if you prefer a diet that is fortified with artificial ingredients that are potentially shown to benefit dogs.

If you are looking for a grain inclusive diet and are comfortable with the use of by-products, then Science Diet offers a great selection catering to all life stages and breed sizes.

If you prefer an all-natural brand that offers much more variety, or you are seeking grain-free options, then Blue Buffalo are the winning team for you and your pooch. This comparison guide all comes down to personal preference, but now you know everything you need to know to make an informed decision!

Leave a Comment

16 Comments

Lenors

September 20, 2021 at 12:05 am

I have been feeding my dogs Science Diet food for over 29 years. My dogs have never had any health issues. It is the best dog food hands down over any brand out there.

Reply

Apiffany Gaither Billings

September 21, 2021 at 3:46 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. We are happy to hear Science Diet has served your pups well!

Reply

LadyJ

September 17, 2021 at 1:37 pm

By product is any product leftover when producing any other product. So organs left from chickens used to produce primarily chicken breasts count as byproducts and are healthy. Byproducts, especially those used by science diet, do not include lower quality, incredibly offal, as the article states. They include the higher nutritional organs that would otherwise be wasted and are actually, higher quality nutritionally than the muscle near. Meat meals are also higher in protein content than ingredients like deboned chicken because it does not include the water content. Please stop misleading the general public about what these ingredients are and the quality they have.

Reply

Apiffany Gaither Billings

September 18, 2021 at 7:56 am

Thank you for your information. Here is more information regarding byproducts and what is listed in pet food.

Reply

Janelle

August 29, 2021 at 5:42 am

As a person in the veterinary field, I wish this article would mention that grain free food is contributing to heart issues in dogs. Grains are a necessary part of a dog's diet and are rarely the cause of an allergen issue.. If you want to know more, search for DCM and grain free diets. There's scientific reasoning behind why Science Diet does not offer many options for grain free diets. I trust the science and research, which is why all of my pets are on Hill's.

Reply

Michelle Schenker

August 30, 2021 at 11:52 am

Thank you Janelle. We are aware of the issue and are updating content to include this warning as we find it. Thank you for bringing this instance to our attention. This article has been updated to add in the concern.

Reply

Steven

August 21, 2021 at 4:20 am

My 12 pound Maltese developed stomach issues. Vet put him on science diet healthy digestive dry food. Hes been on that now for almost 4 years problem solved. My Ridgeback eats science diet large breed food. She's very fit and can run faster then the wind blows. Needless to say I'm a science diet fan!

Reply

Kelly Wilson

August 23, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience with the brand, Steven!

Reply

Heather

June 1, 2021 at 3:52 pm

Love the info. I did a ton of deciding with my now small breed who is 2. Blue Buffalo has definitely come out on top. When I tried something else, she got wirey hair and used the bathroom more. Switched her back and she has the soft coat again, as well as more regular bowels. Definitely will be sticking to Blue Buffalo going forward.

Reply

Kelly Wilson

June 1, 2021 at 7:37 pm

Thanks for commenting, Heather! Appreciate you sharing your experience and insights with our readers!

Reply

Susanna Jarvis

May 22, 2021 at 3:27 pm

We've been feeding Blue Buffalo to our 3 dogs for almost a year and love the results! Healthy, energetic, with glossy coats! I've done a lot of research into Blue Buffalo (especially because there seems to be a real corporate sabotage agenda from another brand) and love everything about their products, but especially, their use of natural ingredients and the sheer variety of products. I'm also impressed by their responsible handling of any recalls or product issues.

Reply

Kelly Wilson

May 24, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for commenting Susan! We appreciate you sharing your experience with our readers!

Reply

Rob K

May 6, 2021 at 1:13 pm

My Rottweiler injured his ACL and struggled with getting around and naturally gained weight. We were prescribed Science Diet Weight Management dry food by our Vet. The Vet and I were both so impressed with the results, my dog ended up losing close to 20lbs in just over a year and his quality of life improved drastically not having to carry that extra weight on an injured leg. I was skeptical when it came to these types of formulas and wasn't sure if the extra price would justify the results I would see. Definitely was proved wrong!

Reply

Kelly Wilson

May 11, 2021 at 6:56 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience with the brands' Rob! It's definitely an eye-opener seeing how much of difference nutrition can make!

Reply

Jennifer

April 23, 2021 at 4:43 pm

Thank you for this article. Very informative. My dog has always had intestinal issues with dog foods; intestinal spasms and loose, mucousy stools. I've tried several brands, including Blue Buffalo, but Science Diet prescription WD to ID seemed to work the best. Now that he's older, I decided to try their Perfect Weight (nonprescription formula), and lo and behold, he has had Zero issues. It really has been great.

Reply

Kelly Wilson

April 25, 2021 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the comment, Jennifer! And we appreciate you sharing your own experience with our readers!

Reply