Royal Canin Dog Food Review - Including Puppy & Grain Free
Our #1 Pick
Wondering if Royal Canin is a good option? No worries, our experts pulled together an in-depth Royal Canin dog food review so you can make up your mind. We took a close look at everything from their ingredients to their protein content to help you make an informed choice.
Royal Canin Dog Food Review
Royal Canin - Overall 2.5 Star Rating
- Ingredients: Dehydrated poultry protein, animal fats, rice, vegetable protein isolate*, hydrolysed animal proteins, beet pulp, vegetable fibres, fish oil, minerals, psyllium husks and seeds, soya oil, marigold extract (source of lutein), hydrolysed yeast (source of manno-oligo-saccharides), hydrolysed crustaceans (source of glucosamine), hydrolysed cartilage (source of chondroitin).
- Named Protein First: No.
- Dog Food Type: Grain Inclusive.
- Recipe Range: Royal Canin markets its dog food range as breed specific (we don't agree with this).
- Suitable For: Royal Canin's recipe range can be suitable for puppy, adult and senior dogs depending on the recipe.
- Cost: $$$
- Australian Owned: No.
Royal Canin Dog Food Review
Flavour-wise, most dogs enjoy eating Royal Canin. In fact, this brand prides itself in offering highly palatable food that even the pickiest of eaters can’t resist. Their small-dog line is especially successful at this, and many dog owners are thrilled their chihuahuas like this dry food.
Of course, the wet food options -both canned and in pouches- are especially flavourful and meaty, perfect to offer a treat.
In regards to its digestibility, most owners are happy with this brand and how it suits their dog’s digestion. However, keep in mind dogs with wheat or corn sensitivities won’t be able to eat this kibble.
To understand the basic ingredients in any dog food, it’s important to look at the first 5 listed ingredients. While Royal Canin has several recipes, after looking at a few it’s evident the first 5 ingredients stay somewhat consistent across the board.
Among those first ingredients, we can find rice, maize, dehydrated poultry protein, poultry fat or animal fat, and wheat. It’s important to mention Royal Canin lists these ingredients in the order we mention, from largest to smallest in quantity. Taking into account these 5 ingredients are the basis of the food, the recipes don’t look especially good.
Let’s start at the beginning: rice. Rice is a highly digestible grain, rich in essential amino acids and high in carbs. This means that it offers optimum caloric energy, but its nutritional value for dogs is modest at best.
The next most common ingredient is maize, also known as corn. This is a common tactic among pet food manufacturers: using a technical name to substitute an ingredient that has been controversial. Corn is used in dog food because it has a high caloric value, is relatively inexpensive and helps your pup feel full. Despite this, corn is harder to digest than animal proteins and should only be consumed in moderation.
This is the same thing that happens with wheat, another base ingredient in Royal Canin recipes. According to the AKC, wheat is the third most common food allergy source among dogs . In spite of what many believe, most dogs can eat grains of all kinds, including corn and wheat:
However, it’s important to mention that starches should be offered in moderation and can’t be the basis of a healthy dog diet.
In this sense, we don’t like Royal Canin’s ingredient choice. Instead of making animal protein and by-products the base of their recipes, they selected grains to be the majority ingredient.
Because 3 out of 5 main ingredients are grains, and animal protein is only the third ingredient on most recipes, we’re taking off 3 stars.
Protein Content 3/5
Following AAFCO’s recommendations, Royal Canin offers a modest 25% protein content. This is lower than other dry dog foods, that usually stick to at least 28% crude protein. However, lower protein content isn’t necessarily bad if it comes from animal sources.
In Royal Canin’s case, it’s hard to tell where the protein comes from. As we already mentioned, the first 2 ingredients are grains -which have vegetable protein- and poultry only comes in third. On the other hand, some recipes even have wheat gluten within the first 3 ingredients, which is actually low in carbs and high in protein.
These ingredients are both cheaper and artificially inflate the protein percentage, leading owners to think all that protein comes from animal sources.
While dogs can digest vegetable protein, they have a harder time getting that protein out and do better with a balanced diet based on meats where grains like corn and wheat are only occasional.
When it comes to protein quality, this brand sticks to dehydrated poultry protein. This is a concentrated poultry by-product, made from everything that’s left after all the regular cuts have been removed. The quality of this ingredient depends on the raw materials, and most brands don’t specify whether or not they chose human-grade poultry. Royal Canin doesn’t disclose this fact either.
We don’t like that protein is the second or even third ingredient, and because of it, we’re taking off 2 stars.
When it comes to additives, Royal Canin isn’t especially impressive. They add beet pulp, which incorporates a bit of extra fibre. Many recipes also have fish oil, which promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat.
On top of that, these recipes are really simple and tend to stick to a mix of carbs, protein and vitamins. Some specific flavours have extras like green tea extract and probiotics. This is negligible compared to other foods in the market that add anything from blueberries to spinach as well as tomatoes, algae and probiotics.
What we do like is that the vitamin and mineral mix includes chelated minerals, which improve bioavailability. This means your dog has better chances of absorbing everything they need through their food.
Finally, this brand doesn’t disclose exactly which preservatives it uses to keep the food fresh. They mention tocopherols in the ingredient list, but it isn’t disclosed if this is the only preservative used. There has been great controversy on the role of dangerous additives in dog food: Australia’s RSPCA even warns against the use of sulphites in pet food.
Sulphur dioxide and sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives are at the centre of these issues. In large quantities, sulphites can cause vitamin b1 deficiency. If left unattended, this deficiency can even lead to death. In fact, according to the RSPCA:
PRO TIP: "Thiamine deficiency can also occur when sulphur dioxide containing foods are fed in conjunction with foods not containing sulphur dioxide. This is because the sulphur dioxide in one food can destroy any thiamine present in the other food being fed at the same time" – RSPCA Australia 
This means that even if only one of the foods you give your dog has sulphites, it could be fatal. Considering this, it’s questionable at best when a brand doesn’t specify whether or not they use sulphites.
Since Royal Canin goes very lean on extra goodies that other brands do include at this price point, and doesn’t explicitly mention their preservatives of choice, we’re taking off 2 stars.
This is where Royal Canin really shines. This brand has an impressive array of options tailored to your dog’s size, age and breed. In Australia, we can find 3 broad ranges: breed health nutrition, size health nutrition and the vet line.
Both the breed and size health nutrition lines are readily available pretty much anywhere, while the vet line can be found at your vet’s office or online.
Most dog owners will find a suitable food among Royal Canin’s recipes. Their breed line spans many popular breeds, from Dachshunds to Retrievers, Rottweilers and Chihuahuas. On the other hand, their size health line targets the specific needs of different-sized dogs. As such, small-breed foods will have a slightly higher calorie count than medium and large-sized breed food.
As for their vet line -also called prescription diet-, it’s targeted at dogs that have already been diagnosed with specific conditions. These include obesity and digestive troubles, but also more delicate issues like hepatic conditions, allergies and diabetes.
Of course, most of their options are available as dry food, but you can also find cans and pouches to offer a convenient treat to your little one.
Since there’s something for everyone here, we’re giving Royal Canin 5 out of 5 in this category.
While Royal Canin belongs to the Mars Corporation, this is the more premium brand of their range. The premium tag also means this isn’t cheap dog food.
You might be able to find better deals, especially when it comes to their prescription line, when buying through online retailers. Many places offer seasonal sales or bundles that might be more cost-effective, especially if you have a larger dog.
In spite of its price, Royal Canin doesn’t use animal protein as the main ingredient in their recipes, and instead uses hefty amounts of corn and wheat as the base of their food.
This is common practice among pet food manufacturers to cut costs. However, the final retail price doesn’t reflect these savings. In fact, we find the price of this brand doesn’t correlate with the smaller amounts of animal protein used in their recipes.
Royal Canin Puppy Food 2021 Review
Our overview wouldn’t be complete without a thorough look at their options for younger dogs, so here’s an in-depth Royal Canin puppy food review.
When looking at their puppy recipes, they’re very similar in composition and ingredients to the adult recipes.
In this sense, the main ingredients are still very similar. However, we like that dehydrated poultry protein is the very first ingredient, with animal fats as the third and pork protein in a close sixth place. The total protein content is slightly higher than in their adult recipes, clocking at around 30%. This is enough to feed your little one as they grow strong and healthy.
When it comes to variety, Royal Canin’s puppy line also offers plenty of choice. There’s a general line with options for puppies of all sizes, from mini to giant; and you can also find breed-specific recipes. In general, the recipes are very similar and the main changes are in kibble size or texture.
All in all, this is a good option for your pup considering the nice protein percentage and kibble options.
Don’t Buy If…
While many owners and vets recommend this brand, Royal Canin might not be the right option if you:
Is Royal Canin Good For Dogs? The Verdict
In general, we’re not loving this brand. It is on the expensive side but still uses cheaper ingredients to bulk up the food and fill your dog up. While some grains can be part of a healthy diet for your dog, we’d rather have them further down the ingredient list instead of as the first or second ingredient.
At this price point, you can find other options that prioritise animal protein as the first ingredient and might fit dogs with sensitive tummies better.
However, praise where praise is due, their puppy recipes have a better protein profile, a little less grains and great chelated minerals to boost bioavailability. This is a good option for pups, especially if you have a mini- or toy- breed that needs a smaller kibble.
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- Are preservatives in dog food a concern? RSPCA Australia. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-preservatives-in-pet-food-products-a-concern/
- Can Dogs Eat Wheat And Other Grains? American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-wheat/
- RSPCA Australia. “What should I feed my dog?”. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-dog/