Are you getting ready to bring home a new puppy and want to get them started on the right foot? Or, maybe your beloved pooch isn’t as excited for dinner time as they used to be. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for new dog food, Hill’s Science Diet and Orijen are two brands you’re going to encounter.
Both brands produce a full line of nutritious and tasty foods that dogs of all shapes and sizes love. But, which one is the right choice for your adorable pup? We took a deep dive into both brands, including their product lines, recall history, ingredient list, and much more.
Read on as we cover everything you need to know about these two brands in our battle of Science Diet vs. Orijen.
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Hill’s Science Diet
Science Diet is a brand owned by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a Colgate-Palmolive company. The company was initially created as somewhat of a happy accident.
In the 1930s, a heartbroken dog owner turned to his vet in search of new dog food. The owner wondered if there was a way to treat Buddy’s, his German Shepherd’s, kidney failure with a more nutritious diet. The answer was yes, and Dr. Morris Sr, the veterinarian, successfully created a dietary plan that helped alleviate Buddy’s condition. Dr. Morris Sr. worked with his son, Mark Morris Jr., to take a new dog food line to market with recipes designed to treat specific health conditions.
Today, Science Diet is one of the most popular dog foods globally, and it’s also one of the most respected. You can find the full line in virtually every pet store and veterinary office in the country.
Orijen has taken the torch from companies like Science Diet in recent times, and for the last three decades, they’ve been producing incredibly nutritious dog and cat foods. Champion Pet Foods manufactures Orijen, and they maintain two production facilities, one in the United States and one in Canada.
Orijen operates by three guiding principles:
- Biologically appropriate – in line with a dog’s natural carnivorous diet
- Regionally sourced ingredients
- They maintain all production in-house.
Orijen’s commitment to quality products and regionally sourced ingredients has quickly made them a favorite among discerning dog owners who demand the best for their pets.
Recalls are relatively common in the dog food industry, and they occur when a product doesn’t meet the company’s standards or when the FDA steps in and issues a recall of the product. How a company deals with a recall can tell you a lot about how they do business.
Hill’s Science Diet has one of the most sterling reputations in the industry concerning recalls. While the brand has been on the market for well over 50 years, they’ve only had three dog food recalls to speak of.
- June 2014 – Voluntary recall of 62 bags of Adult Small & Toy Breed dry dog food for potential salmonella contamination. The recall was limited to California, Hawaii, and Nevada, and no consumer issues were reported.
- November 2015 – The company initiated a market withdrawal of several soft food flavors due to labeling issues. No consumer issues were ever reported.
- January 2019 – Recalled batches of soft food for elevated levels of vitamin D.
While Science Diet has an impressive recall reputation, Orijen blows them out of the water in that regard. Orijen’s foods have never been recalled either voluntarily or by the FDA.
It’s worth noting that while they’ve never recalled these products, Orijen was recently involved in a class-action lawsuit, which alleged that Orijen’s foods contain heavy metals and BPA and the company did not disclose that to customers. The case has since been dismissed.
Lab tests for heavy metals and BPA in Orijen foods fall well within the established legal averages. Even though it appears Orijen has done nothing wrong, the elevated levels of BPA in some of their foods are concerning.
Both brands are committed to producing quality foods to keep your dogs healthy and happy. They practice different philosophies regarding the ideal canine diet, so their ingredients diverge quite a bit. Here’s how the brands differ when it comes to ingredients.
The brand has always positioned itself as a company that produces an optimal diet steeped in science. The brand claims they follow science as they build their recipes, which doesn’t always mean using all-natural ingredients and flavors. Science Diet regularly uses artificial ingredients, flavors, and preservatives in its food.
Real meat is almost always the first ingredient, but there are a few varieties where it isn’t. Hill’s Science Diet also includes meat by-products in their recipes, frowned upon by many experts and pet owners. By-products can consist of organs, blood, beaks, and bones. Obviously, not stuff you’d want your pet to be eating.
The majority of the product line is grain-inclusive, and they only have a single line that’s grain-free. This line is for adult dogs with sensitive stomachs or skin issues. Otherwise, all other Science Diet foods include grain, corn, wheat, and soy. Whether your dog will do better on a grain-inclusive diet or a grain-free diet should be decided with your vet. There are some potential risks to be aware of when it comes to grain-free dog food.
The brand attests that all their dog food is made in the United States using globally-sourced ingredients you can trust. But, it’s unclear what they’re sourcing globally and what ingredients are from the U.S.
Orijen is in a class of their own when it comes to ingredients, thanks to the fact that everything they use is sourced regionally and manufactured in an entire facility that only makes Orijen brand food.
Their dog diet philosophy is unique compared to other manufacturers. Not only do they offer grain-free foods, but their grain-inclusive recipes also omit ingredients like corn and wheat. Their biologically appropriate philosophy also means that their foods contain much more meat than the average brand.
Orijen’s ratio is 85% animal protein for dry foods, with the remaining 15% coming from fruits, vegetables, and botanicals. Their recently-introduced freeze-dried foods are even more protein-rich, with 90% of the ingredients derived from animal proteins and 10% from fruits, vegetables, and botanicals.
Further, two-thirds of all animal protein is either raw or fresh, which means your pet enjoys more nutrients and a better-tasting meal than you’ll be able to find from other manufacturers.
Orijen’s products are low on grains and exceptionally rich in protein, so it seems to defy the convention that the food holds its shape at all. Thanks to the magic of legumes, Orijen’s kibble holds together just fine, and the legumes provide a healthy dose of fiber.
Range Of Formulas
Dog food manufacturers need to make a variety of foods to cater to dogs throughout their entire lifecycle. Here’s how the two company’s different formulas stack up against each other.
The parent company, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, offers several product lines, including Science Diet. Under this brand, there are 42 different dry and 16 wet formulas.
Hill’s also offers a Prescription Diet line that can only be purchased with a prescription from your vet.
Orijen maintains a smaller product line than most brands. Since their recipes rely so heavily on fresh and regionally-sourced ingredients, producing 40+ formulas isn’t realistic. Instead, Orijen focuses on a curated line of nine different dry food formulas and three different freeze-dried formulas.
Orijen’s formulas feature similar ingredients, with minor changes made for each recipe. If your dog prefers a lot of variety, they might not like Orijen since so many of their formulas offer a similar taste.
Puppy nutrition is critical for your little guy to grow up strong and healthy, so you should feed the best food possible during this key development phase.
Orijen Grain Free High-Protein Puppy Food
- Includes a blend of free-range chicken and turkey.
- Contains cage-free eggs and wild fish.
- Grain-free recipe.
- Contains vegetables, like zucchini and squash.
- No fillers, artificial colors, artificial flavors.
- 449 Calories per cup.
- 38% Protein, 20% Fat, 6% Fiber.
Science Diet offers a substantial product range for puppies. There are six different formulas altogether, and each formula addresses a different breed size. You’ll find an option for toy breeds, one for small dogs, two for larger pups, a standard recipe, and one for sensitive dogs with dietary restrictions.
Their sensitive diet formula omits wheat, corn, and soy from the ingredients, but they contain grain. If your dog has a grain sensitivity, this brand may not be a strong fit for you.
Orijen offers two different formulas that cater to the needs of growing dogs. The brand makes one formulation for puppies and another for large breed puppies. Both recipes are rich in protein without grains, corn, wheat, or soy.
The puppy category is tough since each brand has strong and weak points within the class.
Science Diet scores points for their variety of formulations for different breed types. Few brands offer different formulas to cater to puppies of all sizes. While Orijen does provide a regular and large breed formula, Hill’s blows them out of the water with six different recipes.
But, Orijen has a definitive edge in ingredients, as no manufacturer offers a more nutritious formula than they do.
We believe the content of a dog’s food is more important than your puppy’s size, and for this reason, we give Orijen the slightest of edges in this category.
After their first year, your puppy is ready to graduate to adult dog food. Adult foods are made for dogs aged one to seven, and they aim to provide the most balanced diet possible.
Orijen Original High-Protein Adult Dog Food
- First four ingredients are real meat.
- Includes fresh chicken & turkey.
- Contains whole fruits and vegetables.
- Adds natural herbs and roots for antioxidants.
- Grain-free recipe.
- 449 Calories per cup.
- 38% Protein, 18% Fat, 4% Fiber.
Science Diet provides an impressive array of 28 different kibble formulas for adult dogs. They offer recipes specific to different breed sizes, and there’s also a sensitive diet formula for each breed size that omits corn, wheat, and soy. However, they don’t have any grain-free options. The primary protein sources for all their adult formulas are lamb and chicken.
Several formulas target different health and hygiene concerns, such as joint support, oral health support, and weight management.
Orijen maintains a smaller selection of six different adult breed formulas. Orijen offers its original recipe for small breeds and a weight management formula. They also offer three different formulas that derive their protein from other sources. One recipe is exclusively red meat, another is all fish, and a third prioritizes wild proteins like boar, goat, and venison. There are both grain-free and grain-inclusive options in their adult line.
While Science Diet produces more than quadruple the number of adult dog formulas, Orijen manages to hold its own with its product selection and vastly outperforms the competition in other areas.
Despite all of Science Diet’s different formulas, they all derive their protein from the same two primary sources. Orijen offers a more holistic approach, and each recipe has six animal protein sources. With four different flavors, you’ll be able to provide your dog with an excellent variety of tastes, too.
Orijen gets the nod in the adult dog food category, as well.
As dogs age, their health and nutrition needs change too. To provide your dog with the best life possible, you’ll need to adapt their diet to their aging needs. Which brand triumphs in the battle of Science Diet vs. Orijen?
Hill's Science Diet Senior Dog Food Formula
- Made from high-quality & natural ingredients.
- Antioxidant-rich dog food.
- Veterinarian endorsed brand.
- Made in the United States.
- 353 Calories per cup.
- 15.5% Protein, 10.5% Fat, 4% Fiber.
Science Diet offers a substantial selection of 10 dry formulations for senior dogs, including several for small and large breeds. Several different formulas address different dietary needs, and there’s also a grain-free formula in the senior line.
The senior category is where Science Diet shines, and it represents their most diverse line of foods, including their only grain-free offering. The only knock against their older dog offerings is that they don’t publish glucosamine and chondroitin information for most of their products. These ingredients are essential for dogs with aging joints, especially if they’re a large breed.
Orijen offers a single formula of dry food for senior dogs, so there’s not much in the way of choice. However, it’s a holistic formula packed with the key ingredients that elderly dogs need to thrive, including plenty of glucosamine and chondroitin.
While Orijen’s one offering is an excellent choice for complete senior dog nutrition, it can’t compete in this category. Science Diet’s broad selection of different formulas addresses the most common health and wellness issues with senior dogs, and it’s the one category where they offer a grain-free recipe. Science Diet is the clear winner for old dogs.
Wet food is a great way to supplement your dog’s meal for some extra flavor and texture, and it’s a necessity for dogs with poor teeth. Let’s see how each brand stacks up in this department.
Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Canned Formula
- Formulated to help achieve a healthy weight.
- 100% balanced nutrition and contains prebiotic for digestion.
- Promotes a healthy weight
- Made with wholesome ingredients and no artificial flavors or preservatives.
- Recommended for adult dogs that require fewer calories (i.e. less active, neutered, or otherwise prone to weight gain).
Science Diet manufactures nine different wet food formulas, including several life-stage options and a few that address various health and dietary conditions. Several different flavors exist, but most of the formulas for other health conditions come in only one flavor.
While Orijen does make wet food, we find their line of grain-free, freeze-dried food to be a better option for those seeking a softer alternative. You mix the freeze-dried foods with water before serving. While the process is different, the result is still a healthy wet food for your furry friend.
In this formulation, Orijen offers their original recipe and their Regional Red and Tundra recipes. In this case, it’s more a question of flavor than anything else as all three varieties are very similar nutrition-wise.
While Orijen’s “wet food offerings” are superior to Hill’s from an ingredient perspective, they don’t offer enough options to be our category winner. Science Diet’s foods aren’t quite as nutritious as Orijen’s, but they offer a broader selection and support dogs with dietary requirements.
If your dog eats a regular diet with no restrictions or you are seeking a product with fewer ingredients, Orijen wins wet food. But, for puppies, seniors, or any dog with dietary concerns, Science Diet wins the wet food category.
These are two of the most popular and trusted dog food brands, and discerning pet parents have turned to them for decades. Each brand is a solid choice, but depending on your dog’s individual needs and life stage, you’ll find that one brand is better suited for you than the other.
Orijen has a clear advantage in their puppy and adult dog offerings, while Science Diet has an edge in their senior and wet food options. This split makes it difficult to pick a winner in Science Diet vs. Orijen.
While Hill’s Science Diet may be better suited for your pup if they’re dealing with a health condition, most dogs benefit from Orijen’s holistic diet. It’s the pricier option between the two, but Orijen uses superior ingredients from trusted sources, which justifies the higher price.
October 10, 2022 at 6:58 pm
So, I work for hills pet nutrition and I can tell you that my plant uses local ingredients. We have farms around the surrounding counties that we have contracts with and get our ingredients from. We have crazy amount of vets working in our company and it goes through rigorous testing before we ever send it out the door. We also have our food sold before ever making it so it doesn't sit forever on shelves.
October 4, 2022 at 10:18 am
This article was a bit painful to read. Orijen having a more nutritious formula than Hill's? Sure it may look that way on paper but how much of this "nutritious formula" is actually biologically available?
I work in the veterinary industry and the pet food industry is extremely frustrating to navigate. I know so many dogs who either develop kidney issues or heart disease from Orijen's obscenely high levels of protein and lack of grains. The FDA did a huge study on boutique diets like Orijen and Acana and both diets were highest ranking in terms of how many dogs they caused to develop heart disease.
I never recommend Orijen or other boutique diets because any Tom, Dick, or Harry can make a pet food. Hill's, Purina, and Royal Canin are actually staffed by veterinarians who have studied nutrition. They understand that dogs aren't carnivores, they are omnivores. Grain rarely causes GI issues in dogs, this is an analogous movement from people trying to eat more gluten free. Please do better research before posting misinformation like this. There is no value in comparing a true veterinary line of food that is scrupulously studied and undergoes quality control checks regularly to some boutique diet created by people who lobe their pets but don't understand nutrition at all.
October 4, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Thank you for your thoughts and we agree that this spoke about Orijen like it only makes grain-free options but they now have several grain-inclusive recipes as well that can be considered by pet owners, making it a more well-rounded options for those who are at risk of heart health concerns. We updated our content to better reflect this clarification.
September 15, 2022 at 9:17 pm
Orijen has been a diet recognized to cause DCM dilated cardiomyopathy which is a deadly and irreversible heart disease. Holistic diets are fine if they are well balanced oriented is not well balanced. NOT to mention Hills is literally made and staffed by veterinarians and professional animal nutritionists. Not a great comparison since they are not equal in terms of years of production and the research here is based off things that come off more opinionated.
September 3, 2022 at 3:31 pm
I think it would have also been worth noting that Orijen has a “cheaper” brand Acana that has many many more varieties even limited ingredient ones and also that ALL of their formulas are appropriate for any life stage per their website and bags.