The Royal Canin brand was founded in France in 1968. Founder Jean Cathary was a veterinarian who wanted to use science and newfound dietary research to create a line of advanced pet foods better designed to meet the needs of our dogs and cats. The company maintains that even today, their formulas are crafted based on the expertise of animal researchers, professional breeders and veterinarians.

Now, Royal Canin offers a myriad of foods marketed as scientifically-designed to meet your dog’s needs. The brand is well-recognized for their introduction of breed-specific foods, said to be acutely formulated for each individual breed. It is difficult to see this as anything more than a marketing ploy aimed to make pet parents feel like they are choosing something extra special for their dog. The truth is that there is really no evidence to support that each single breed needs their own food. Yes, every breed has specific needs and therefore some foods are better than others, but no, each breed does not need a formula specially crafted to their specific needs.

As we recommend with all dog foods, the most important thing you can do when choosing dog food is to look at the label and to know at least a little bit about the brand. Here we’ve taken a closer look Royal Canin as well as some of their dog food labels.

Royal Canin is owned by Mars Petfood and has expanded globally, with their U.S. plants being located in Missouri and South Dakota. While their international expansion doesn’t automatically mean their food lacks quality, it is generally more difficult to guarantee anything from pet food manufacturers once their production reaches such a scale. It takes a lot for big companies to manage their bottom line and suppliers compete with the lowest possible prices for a piece of the pie. Although Royal Canin does assert that their ingredients are tested for quality, they aren’t forthcoming about where the ingredients are coming from or what they are being tested for. It makes one a little less comfortable when places of origin start to get rather murky and the information is not available.

Controversial ingredients and their defense

Royal Canin meets the standards outlined by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for complete and balanced nutrition. Depending on the formula, their foods also satisfy the recommended nutrient profiles for puppies, adults or all life stages. However, the task of meeting the relatively the AAFCO’s relatively low requirements by no means qualifies any food to be lauded as neither premium nor high quality.

By looking at some of the labels alone, Royal Canin seems to go against some of the cardinal rules of good dog food. What is interesting is that they do state that their ingredients are, in fact, safe and nutritionally sound.

In a number of their formulas, they include corn, wheat, and artificial sweeteners. Corn is specifically very common and always very high up on the ingredient list. Royal Canin argues that corn contains nutrients valuable to dogs. Moreover, they state that when properly processed, it is a highly digestible source of healthy carbohydrates. When it is used in such large amounts, it is hard not to believe it is being used as filler. Most low-quality dog foods grind up corn as filler in their dry kibble and don’t defend its use as anything but what it is. Of course, anyone who has ever had a dog that showed an allergy towards corn need not even take it that far.

Royal Canin has recently added corn gluten meal and wheat gluten, also describing them as easily digestible sources of protein. It goes without saying that any canine would benefit much more from meat-based protein and the fact that these ingredients need to be added to boost the protein content raises a lot of questions as to how much meat is in their recipes.

The issue of how much meat protein is in their food is a big one. Many critics point out that the company practices what is called ‘grain splitting’ on their ingredient list. This means that they divide grains into two or more components to make them appear lower on the list, which would imply lower amounts. For example, they would use the terms corn, cornmeal, and corn flour so that some terms could drop lower on the list, but in reality, corn and all of its ‘derivatives’ make up the bulk of the food and would be at the very top of the list.

By-products and by-product meal are also common themes on the Royal Canin labels. They attest that they use only high-quality by-products which include things like the heart, liver, and lungs. However, this does not exclude any number of other parts. When it comes to by-products, this can mean anything from heads to feet to feathers. You can find several other brands that specifically state on the label the use of organs and cartilage to add valuable compounds to their food. It is hard to understand why Royal Canin would need to use a generic, unwelcomely all-inclusive word like ‘by-products’ if they were genuinely only using those animal parts that are actually deemed edible and nutritious.

There are a number of Royal Canin dog food reviews that quite adamantly do not favor the brand due to their use of controversial ingredients. Also, the company’s lack of full transparency regarding suppliers and sourcing, in general, turns a lot of people away. The Consumer Affairs website shows Royal Canin received less than 2 out of 5 stars and features a long list of negative reviews from people who have fed their pets one of their products. Dog Food Advisor is just as harsh, giving it their second lowest rating of 2.5 stars, stating that after an analysis of Royal Canin’s ingredients, this food is not recommended.

Veterinary food division

Aside from their breed-specific formulas, Royal Canin does have a subdivision of foods that cater to special health conditions including gastrointestinal issues, protein allergies, and urinary problems. Again, this brand describes its mission as engineering scientific formulas that benefit animals’ specific needs.

Royal Canin’s health specific formulas tend to fare better at the mercy of consumers, but overall they still do not rank very well in most reviews. Perhaps the one formula that does have a lot of positive feedback is Royal Canin’s Hydrolyzed Protein Hypoallergenic dog food. Trying to pinpoint the source of a dog’s food allergy can be time-consuming and frustrating. If you find that your dog is having difficulty with proteins, it can be even more difficult finding a protein source that won’t aggravate his sensitive system. Royal Canin has done well with fine-tuning the process of hydrolyzing, in which protein is partially broken down as it would in a normal digestive process. While it still retains nutrients, the body can no longer recognize the molecular makeup as that of a protein so it does not trigger a negative reaction.

Many Royal Canin dog food reviews applaud their hydrolyzed protein foods and some pet parents have sworn by them. The same is true for many of their other specific veterinary varieties, but it is hard to judge their effectiveness based on a handful of non-professional reviews. Perhaps the foods did significantly benefit the dog’s specific health concern, but there is no way to follow-up about the dog’s overall health over time after continued consumption of the food.

In conclusion

Our dogs are like family to us and we want to do whatever we can to ensure their health and wellness for many years to come. It is so important to feed them a high-quality food filled with ingredients that their body needs. The best thing you can do when selecting a food is to stay informed and to read the label.

Royal Canin is a very popular name in pet food, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s good for your dog. A lot of ‘premium’ pet food companies have the long history, extensive global reach and the money to put a lot of effort into marketing and advertising to build a brand image that makes a lot of people trust in the name. There is no substantial scientific evidence that supports designing foods for specific breeds and it is likely that this is just a part of that overarching marketing ploy. By making the brand appear premium grade and scientifically advanced, they can charge the prices of premium pet foods without backing it up in quality.

The brand does meet AAFCO standards for complete and balanced dog food. However, it really does not contain the kinds of ingredients we expect to see in a top quality dog food. Their use of several ingredients like corn, wheat, gluten, and by-products is unfortunate, but not uncommon with large manufacturers.

As for the line of veterinarian-inspired foods, there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to dog foods designed to tackle specific health issues. Several of these foods may, in fact, be very effective for some dogs. If Royal Canin is referred by your veterinarian for handling a food allergy or ongoing gastrointestinal complaints, discuss any concerns you may have about other ingredients.