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Nutro vs. Science Diet: Which Brand Makes Better Dog Food?


Last Updated: May 9, 2024 | 10 min read | Leave a Comment

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Choosing the best dog food for your furry friend can be challenging. It gets even more confusing when you’re stuck between two quality brands. Science Diet and Nutro dog food are both well-known brands in the pet food industry, making a name for themselves due to their diet varieties. So when comparing Nutro vs. Science Diet, how do you know which brand serves your canine companion best?

Nutro is a highly rated dog food brand, and Science Diet also fares well when compared to other dog food brands. In order to find our favorite food picks between these two brands, we’ve compared their most popular dry dog foods at each life stage.

We’re going to break down each brand in terms of ingredients, diet varieties, brand history, and more! By the end of this guide, we hope to help you make the final decision between Nutro and Science Diet for your dog’s specific needs.

Our Rating

Best For Puppies

Nutro Puppy Formula

Science Diet Large Breed
Our Rating

Best For Adults

Science Diet Adult

Nutro Puppy Formula Dog Food
Our Rating

Best For Seniors

Nutro Senior Formula

Brand Histories

Nutro and Science Diet Brand Histories
Both Nutro and Science Diet have reputable brand histories.

Understanding a brand and their mission is important when it comes to making an informed decision on your pup’s future diet. When you know how the brands started, and how they manufacture their food, it can provide peace of mind. To help you get a glimpse into what these brands are about, let’s dive into their history in the pet food industry.

Science Diet

Science Diet began with a veterinarian’s mission to resolve a dog’s kidney failure in the 1930’s. After his success in creating a diet that supported kidney function, this father-son duo made their way into the pet food industry.

Since their start in 1930, Science Diet has become one of the most well-known diets in the veterinary field. This company creates multiple prescription diets for dogs that struggle with certain medical conditions, as well as diets that can be purchased at pet stores without a doctor’s note.

Science Diet is based around offering nutrition that promotes lifelong health,  and hopefully helps to prevent illness by doing so. Since being offered outside of an animal clinic setting, they have created multiple diets for dogs of all kinds.


Nutro is a popular dog food brand that got its start nearly 90 years ago. With being the first dog food brand to create a line of specialty and natural dog food and treats, they have made quite a name for themselves in this realm. With being a subsidiary of Mars Incorporated, Nutro pet food is one of the many diets that’s created with quality in mind.

Nutro is well known for their many diets tailored to dogs of all kinds. With being all natural and free of ingredients that are known to irritate sensitive furry friends, their recipes have made a huge impact on dogs around the country.


Nutro and Science Diet Product Recalls
Both Nutro and Science Diet have excellent recall histories.

Now that we understand each brand’s mission, let’s discuss their past with food recalls. The number of recalls a company has experienced can impact our opinion of how trustworthy they are as a whole, so let’s break down both Science Diet and Nutro recipes.

Science Diet

Science Diet has only had 3 recalls in their history. This did, however, impact them greatly in the eyes of the consumer. Some argue that it’s because Science Diet is held to a higher standard, being endorsed by vets. Regardless, the last 2 recalls seemed to have an impact on their customers.

In June of 2012, Science Diet recalled 62 bags of kibble due to possible Salmonella contamination. Thankfully, no pets were reported ill from this possible contamination.

The last 2 recalls were in January 2019 and March of 2019, which involved elevated levels of vitamin D in their diets. Some dogs were hospitalized due to the issue, causing the issue to be brought to the company’s attention. Once they were aware of the problem, they immediately pulled any affected recipes off the shelf and from animal clinics.


Nutro has experienced 3 food recalls throughout their long history in the pet food industry. The first food recall occurred in March 2007, where multiple brands belonging to Mars Incorporated were affected by a possible melamine contamination.

The next recall in September of 2009 involved an incident where a worker’s hard hat fell into the supply line. This caused tiny pieces of plastic to fall into their product. Due to their fast action, no pets were affected.

The last food recall was December 2015 when a batch of treats were pulled from the shelves due to the possibility of mold contamination. Again, no pets were affected by this possible contamination.

Food Ingredients

Natural Dog Food Ingredients
Both Science Diet and Nutro use Natural ingredients in their dog food manufacturing process.

The ingredients are what makes the brand, and what can ultimately sway your decision in which diet is best for your canine companion. Let’s break down each diet in terms of ingredients, and show you what each one has to offer!

Science Diet

Science Diet creates their recipes based on a dog’s specific nutritional needs. Their brand focuses on creating a well rounded diet that is based on science, and meeting our furry friends at the core. Since their main mission is focused on a scientific need for certain ingredients, you will find that they don’t necessarily believe that a natural approach is always the best. Because of this, their recipes do lack in terms of natural or grain free options.

When it comes to the protein in this diet, real meat is usually the first ingredient in their recipes. Their protein options range from chicken, turkey, to lamb and more. Though they do pride themselves in offering quality protein in their recipes, they do also use a controversial product (meat byproducts) that have many pet owners raising their eyebrows.

When it comes to grain-free options for pup, you will only find one diet that caters to dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs. Though they only have one grain-free diet, they do offer many other diets that cater to dogs of all kinds. Science Diet offers puppy diets, adult formulas, large breed formulas, senior diets, specific breed diets, healthy weight diets, and prescription diets. Their prescription diets cater to dogs with specific medical conditions and can help to add longevity throughout their life.


Unlike Science Diet, Nutro only uses quality protein and never any meat byproducts. Nutro wants to stand apart from other budget-friendly foods on the shelf, and avoiding these ingredients helps them do just that. Aside from their vow to only use quality meat options, they also leave out any artificial flavors or preservatives as well.

Nutro also offers grain-free and grain inclusive diet options for owners with any preference. Their grain-free options of course avoid all grains, while their grain inclusive diets only offer gentle grains such as brown rice or oatmeal. This helps to cater to dogs with sensitivities, as well as offer easily digestible grains to those who do still consume them.

On top of their quality protein and grain-free options, they also make sure to infuse each diet with vitamins and minerals for immune support. These additives include omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which all help to promote longevity in our canine companion’s lives.

Range Of Formulas

Formula Ranges for Dog Foods
Both Science Diet and Nutro have a wide range of dog food formulas.

The most important part of a diet is their ability to cater to dogs of all kinds. Our canine friends will experience multiple life stages throughout their journey, meaning they will need a diet that can nourish them in each stage.

Science Diet offers a total of 42 dry kibble formulas for dogs in all life stages, and Nutro offers 5 product lines that each offer a diet that is split into age and size range. Now, let’s break it down and compare Science Diet and Nutro in terms of their formulas to help you find the best diet for your pup!

Puppy Formulas

Nutro Essentials Puppy Formula

Nutro Essentials Senior Formula Dog Food
  • Best For Puppies.
  • Made with Non-GMO ingredients.
  • Omega fatty acids for coat health.
  • No corn, wheat, soy or by-products.
  • Made in the United States.
  • 387 Calories per cup.
  • 29% Protein, 16% Fat, 3% Fiber.

The puppy stage is the most crucial time period in terms of proper nutrition. With their growing bodies and need for higher amounts of protein and added nutrition, it’s important to find a puppy food formula that caters to your growing canine specifically. Let’s see what each of these brands have to offer!

Science Diet

Science Diet offers 6 puppy kibbles for our growing canine friends. They offer 2 separate recipes for large breed dogs, 1 option for small breed dogs, and even an option for the tiny toy pups. The two separate recipes for large breed dogs include the option of chicken or lamb, and the lamb recipe is free of any wheat and corn.


Nutro has 9 different puppy formulas to offer their customers. 1 recipe is from their Ultra diet, 5 recipes are from their Wholesome essentials diet, 2 recipes are from the Max diet, and they even offer 1 grain free option. Their Wholesome Essentials line offers multiple flavors for both small and large breed dogs, giving your furry friend a wonderful variety to choose from. Nutro has produced several options in the puppy category to keep up with other puppy food giants like Blue Buffalo.


Science Diet does have a leg up with offering a toy breed line. Nutro, however, has more options to choose from when it comparing each brand. Having so many recipes to choose from and even an option for dogs with sensitive skin and tummies, this means Nutro wins the puppy formula round.

Adult Formulas

Science Diet Adult Formula

Nutro Canned Food
  • Best For Adults.
  • Veterinarian endorsed.
  • Omega fatty acid blend.
  • No artificial colors or preservatives.
  • Antioxidants for immune health.
  • 363 Calories per cup.
  • 20% Protein, 11.5% Fat, 4% Fiber.

Your dog needs balanced nutrition to support them through the adult stage of their life. Since your pup spends the most time in this age range, it’s important to make sure you continue to offer them the valuable nutrients they need. Let’s see what each brand has to offer to our adult furry friends.

Science Diet

Science Diet shines when it comes to their adult formulas. Science Diet offers 28 adult kibble recipes, each of which cater to dogs of all kinds. Their adult diets have options for small breeds, large breeds, healthy mobility, sensitive stomach, dental health, and more! Each of these options are sold on the store shelves, and do not require a prescription from a veterinarian. Though they have not had any grain free options in the past, they now even have an adult grain free option for dogs with sensitive skin and stomachs.


Nutro offers 42 adult kibbles for the canine companions in our life. Each line has multiple recipes for adult dogs, ranging in breed sizes and flavors. Not only are there multiple diet options for dogs of all kinds, there are also a few grain free options to choose from. With having multiple diet lines to choose from, every dog is catered to


Though Nutro has several diets to choose from, Science Diet wins this round for their variety of impressive options. Unlike Nutro, Science Diet offers a recipe for dogs with a range of medical conditions, all without the need of a prescription. Science Diet offers multiple ways to make sure your dog has exactly what they need nutrition wise.

Senior Formulas

Nutro Essentials Senior Formula

Nutro Wet Dog Food
  • Best For Seniors.
  • Omega fatty acids.
  • Non-GMO ingredients.
  • No corn, wheat or soy.
  • Made in the United States.
  • 317 Calories per cup.
  • 23% Protein, 12% Fat, 4% Fiber.

Our senior pups need extra care in the later stages of their life. This means it’s important to find a diet that fits their senior-specific needs. At age 7 and up, most dogs may require extra nutrients to help them feel their best. Let’s dive into each brand and see who offers the most senior support!

Science Diet

Science Diet offers 5 kibbles that are made for senior canines. Five formulas are for dogs aged 7 and up. Another is made for smaller breeds that are aged 11 and up. Science Diet is aware of how different-sized canines can enter their senior stage at different ages. They try their best to tackle this with the variety in size options. Science Diet includes omega fatty acids and minerals for skin and joint health. However, they do not mention any added glucosamine and chondroitin for added joint support.


Nutro offers 8 recipes for senior dogs, all of which range from their different lines. 4 of these are of Wholesome Essentials, 1 is grain free, 2 are from their Ultra line, and one is from their Max option. In each of these lines there are options for small and large breed seniors. While each of their diets already include natural sources of omega fatty acids, their large breed Wholesome Essentials line has added glucosamine and chondroitin for additional joint support in aging dogs.


Though Science Diet offers a variety in small and large breed senior dogs, Nutro wins this round for their added joint support. Nutro included glucosamine and chondroitin in their large breed senior diets. These nutrients are extremely important in terms of managing joint health in a senior dog.

Wet Food

Nutro Hearty Stew Chunky Formula

  • Top Canned Food.
  • Made with real chicken.
  • Contains no by-products.
  • No corn, soy or wheat.
  • Made in the United States.
  • 312 Calories per serving.
  • 9% Protein, 3% Fat, 1% Fiber.

Canned food offers both a hydration boost, and a flavor variety for your dog. It can be used as a food topper, or as a food serving all on its own. Wet food should offer more than just added flavor on top of a meal, so let’s see what each brand has to offer.

Science Diet

Science Diet offers 16 canned food options, each of which range in different life stages and flavors. While some come in the form of a pate, others are offered in a savory stew. Though there are a few different life stage options, there appears to be a limited number of flavor options.


Nutro offers 19 different canned food products, all of which are grain-free. Their options range in life stages, as well as different textures and flavors for furry friends with all tastes. Nutro’s canned foods are well-liked by many dog owners, and have built a solid reputation since inception.


Nutro wins this round for the best canned food, even though Science Diet offers different textures. With each canned diet being completely grain-free, this gives every dog the chance at their delicious canned food.

Final Thoughts

When comparing Science Diet vs. Nutro, both are quality dog food choices for your canine companion. Each brand has benefits, depending for the life stage. Both brands the extra steps to go above and beyond. Nutro does have more options in terms of flavors, grain-free diets, and life-stage options. But Science Diet is also backed by vets and has a great selection for dogs with specific nutritional needs.

Both food brands are high-quality and can serve a different purpose for your pup. Because of this, we feel that brand vs. brand isn’t quite a fair comparison. Rather, shop for your pup’s nutritional and life stage needs. If you have a furry friend with a medical condition that Science Diet caters to, you may lean toward them in terms of proper management. If you are looking for high-quality grain-free food, Nutro gets the job done.

Natural Balance – Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diet

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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