Before you bombard my page with comments about how horrible Science Diet is because of some of the ingredients it uses (I’ve gotten a lot with past dog food reviews) – including corn and animal by-products – I’ll stop you right there to say that I have heard it all already. While it would be wonderful if every dog owner could afford all-natural, grain-free foods, that’s just not the case for everyone. It wasn’t the case for me when I first got the puppy who got Science Diet Small Bites Puppy, and many more dogs would languish or be put down in shelters if only those who could afford top-shelf ever owned a dog. Without further ado, my (rather long) puppy food tale…
In October of 2009, I rescued a little terrier puppy from the local shelter. When I say “rescued,” I mean she was declining rapidly from an already very bad condition in the shelter environment. She’d been rescued from a hoarding situation – her painfully thin, nearly bald body with its harsh, discolored coat told her story, as well as her crooked leg from an untreated break. As she looked up at me with terror in her eyes and a firmly-tucked tail, I knew that this little Miniature Schnauzer/Miniature Pinscher cross puppy (“Miniature Schnaupin,” as her breeders marketed her) would be our next family member.
My new 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 from their condition, it was a grossly insufficient amount of scraps. The local animal shelter fed her on Pedigree Healthy Bites Puppy for two months until I adopted her at the age of six months.
Though the Pedigree helped her gain a little bit of weight, it really hadn’t done much good. Her coat had grown in slightly, but was still extremely harsh and wiry. The vet discovered and quickly eradicated tapeworms. A detailed discussion with said vet ensued about the puppy’s past and the past food (or lack thereof) that she was used to, plus my current budget, and she recommended that I switch her to Science Diet. For all the people who like to say “vets only say that so they can sell the food” – my vet doesn’t sell any food in-office except actual prescription dog food. As far as I know, she’s not in cahoots with the local feed store. She truly cares for animals, and has helped me keep dozens of mine healthy over the years.
This information was garnered from the puppy food bag at the time the original review was written in 2009. Though I’ve updated the review many times to chart my dog’s progress, I haven’t checked for changes in the formula or ingredients. Please check Science Diet’s website or current pet food packages for updated information.
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:
A 20-pound bag of Science Diet Small Bites Puppy costs about $25 at our local farm and ranch store, and about $30 in the vet’s offices that sell it. The first thing I noticed when I opened up the bag was the smell. It smells mainly of fish oil, which is a wonderful odor for a dog food – the dog quickly agreed. Her previous Pedigree puppy food smelled like…well, not much at all.
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. The bag recommends 1 ½-1 ¾ cups of food per day for my puppy’s size and age, though she wasn’t able to work up to that amount until nearly four months after she came home. At first, she could barely manage a half-cup per day. No doubt, her emaciated condition is a big part of why she ate so little.
Each bag 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.
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 been switched to one type of food when she came to the shelter, and was used to extreme deprivation before that. The vet warned me that richer food could cause some digestion difficulties. The shelter had given me a pound of Pedigree to help with a gradual switch, adding in more Science Diet every day.
The switch-over didn’t go seamlessly…she liked the smell of Science Diet so much better than the Pedigree that she constantly picked through her dish for the Science Diet morsels first, only eating the Pedigree when it was the only thing left. With her tiny appetite, she often only ate the Science Diet and had none of her previous Pedigree staple to help her system adjust. The result? Gas. Lots and lots of toxic gas for nearly a month. She also had some diarrhea for a couple of days, but it’s difficult to tell if the new food was at fault. It may have just been a system flush to get rid of the tapeworms after deworming.
Other than about a month of fishy farts, the experiences with Science Diet Small Bites Puppy have been positive overall. While I’m sure the de-worming helped some in improving my pup’s condition, the drastic changes she showed over the course of four months have to be at least partly due to the improvement in food.
Previously 13.5 pounds, my puppy quickly filled out and gained another two pounds. She lost the lanky skin-and-bones look of which the Pedigree had failed to rid her. She hit a healthy weight about two months into feeding Science Diet, and remained steadily at that weight for another two months despite a bitterly cold winter that kept her from playing outside much or going for many walks. Her healthy full-grown adult size is 18 pounds.
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.
Within four months of adopting this puppy from the local shelter, she went 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 developed very well and, apart from her crooked leg, no one would ever guess what kind of start she had. Once she finished with Science Diet Small Bites Puppy, I switched her to Science Diet Small Bites Adult and kept her on it for another three years. We only switched when her “big brother” – a 2-year-old Catahoula – came home from the shelter. He has a corn intolerance and is much higher energy than our little mini, so both dogs were switched to Diamond Naturals. Now eight years old in 2016, this dog has never had any serious health issues and has never been to the vet for anything other than regular check-ups.
Overall, Science Diet Small Bites Puppy has shown to be a good food with some very obvious positive results, and the puppy loves it. It is definitely worth the price and comes highly recommended from the local vet. Honestly, if you’re really concerned about absolute premium ingredients or are afraid that your dog is intolerant of one or more ingredients, then buy something else by all means. If you just want something to keep the average puppy healthy, then this seems to be an effective choice.