Royal Canin Starter (Dry)

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Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

This Review Has Been Merged with
Royal Canin Medium
Royal Canin Giant
Royal Canin Maxi
Royal Canin Mini

Royal Canin Starter dog food receives the Advisor’s second highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Royal Canin Starter product line includes four dry dog foods.

Although according to Royal Canin each formulation appears to be for “mothers from the end of gestation and during lactation and for weaning puppies up to 2 months of age”, we found no AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the company’s website.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Royal Canin Mini Starter
  • Royal Canin Maxi Starter
  • Royal Canin Giant Starter
  • Royal Canin Medium Starter

Royal Canin Medium Starter was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Royal Canin Medium Starter Formula

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 32% | Fat = 23% | Carbs = 38%

Ingredients: Chicken meal, brewers rice, chicken fat, wheat gluten, corn, dried beet pulp, natural flavors, fish oil, sodium silico aluminate, vegetable oil, potassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, l-lysine, fructooligosaccharides, hydrolyzed yeast, potassium chloride, choline chloride, butyrate, taurine, l-tyrosine, vitamins [dl-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), biotin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A acetate, niacin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement], trace minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), L-carnitine, marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.), betacarotene, rosemary extract, preserved with natural mixed tocopherols and citric acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis29%21%NA
Dry Matter Basis32%23%38%
Calorie Weighted Basis25%44%30%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The second ingredient includes brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

By the way, contrary to popular belief, brewers rice has nothing to do with the process of brewing beer.

The third ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The fourth item is wheat gluten. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once wheat has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.

Compared to meat, glutens are inferior plant-based proteins low in some of the essential amino acids dogs need for life.

This inexpensive plant-based ingredient can significantly boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The fifth item is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain which — aside from its energy content — is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

For this reason, we do not consider corn a preferred component in any dog food.

The sixth ingredient lists beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

After the natural flavors, we find fish oil. Fish oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, fish oil should be considered a commendable addition.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With four notable exceptions

First, we find vegetable oil, a generic oil of unknown origin. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in any oil is nutritionally critical and can vary significantly (depending on the source).

Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of an item so vaguely described. However, compared to a named animal fat, a generic vegetable oil cannot be considered a quality ingredient.

Next, this recipe contains fructooligosaccharide, an alternative sweetener1 probably used here as a prebiotic. Prebiotics function to support the growth of healthy bacteria in the large intestine.

Thirdly, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Royal Canin Starter Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Royal Canin Starter appears to be an average dry dog food.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 32%, a fat level of 23% and estimated carbohydrates of about 38%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 32% and a mean fat level of 23%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 38% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 72%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the wheat gluten, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Royal Canin Starter is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

Special Alert

Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

06/12/2012 Original review
09/20/2013 Review merged
09/20/2013 Last Update

  • Wendy Tassone

    My first Golden Retriever lived a healthy 10 year life on Royal canine Moderate calorie Veterinary exclusive, we changed from Nutro Natural Choice when he was about three to Royal Canine and he kept his ideal weight at 70 lbs.,never any health problems 2001- 2011. Now I have three Goldens, two 11/2 year olds and one 31/2 year old, all are on different foods, one is on Royal Canine veterinary exclusive Moderate calorie and is doing great since a pup, one was on Royal Canine Anti gastro because of diahhrea and this food also kept a beautiful coat on her ! We have to change it now because of bloating issues and I have recently put her on Blue buffalo Wilderness grain Free and she is doing great, I hope she does not loose her beautiful coat ! The three year old was getting too heavy on Royal Canine Moderate Calorie and I do not want him on any diet food because of the ingredients, so I have him on Blue Buffalo Adult which was similar to Nature’s Variety which he was on before and he did well on it, but it is so hard to get where I live and access to Pet Smart for Blue Buffalo is easier since i have two of them on BB. Our Vet sells Royal Canine and it is a good food for Health reasons and I am not changing one of my Goldens from it because it works for him and he also has a beautiful coat,his weight is perfect, and may not work for the others. So much controversy on dog foods,corn, rice, wheat may work for some and not for others.

  • InkedMarie

    I assume you mean Merrick? Good luck!

  • cin3dee

    Yeah I ended up getting a small bag of merrel duck and sweet potato to see how she likes it and how she does on it.  She is a mini poodle

  • InkedMarie

    Loyall is a pretty crappy food, IMO. I would choose a food that is all life stages, from puppies right on up. What kind of puppy are you getting? 

  • cin3dee

    I bought a huge bad of Royal for my new puppy I am getting on friday. I thought the breeder was feeding this one , but she decided to go with Loyall. Now i am SO confused after going on this website. SO many reviews but even the 5 star foods have lots of negative scary comments. This site I feel has made me even MORE confused and worried now. UGGG  not sure at this point I trust ANY of them but I dont have the time or money to feed all raw. 

  • Storm’s Mom

    …or you could feed him any of the 4 or 5 star foods listed by clicking on the “Best Dog Foods” link on the top left of this page! Your dog will thank you for it :-)

  • Sonjamarino

    I have fed my Coton RC since he was 9wks. old. He has never had digestive problems, its been a very relieable dog food. Now I want to lower his carbs so he can loose some wt. Not that he is fat just because I worry about his joints. He weighs 16 lbs but I feel 14 would be better. BUT now reading all the bad reviews on RC I am doubtful on what to do. It sounds like I might as well feed him Science Diet. or Pedigree. Very disturbing web site.

  • Jo Unrau

    Royal Canin is good.My dog started with Royal Canin Baby when he was 9 wks. old.He is 6 yrs.now and gets adult Royal Canin.He’s in great health.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Miltapher Amelia Ebert

     you are comparing apples to oranges.  Canaries and eagles can not inter breed and produce off-spring.  They are not the same species.  Chihuahuas and German shepherds can.  Dogs can interbreed with other breeds of dogs, wolves, jackles and coyotes.  The same can not be said about canaries and eagles.

  • here4thedogs

    Vets sell Royal Canine and Hill’s; neither of which rank higher than 3/5 star and most are lower.

  • Dog Food Ninja

    Jordgubben, I am most certainly not naive. In fact, I love science. And what most interests me is evolutionary science. And what we are learning more and more each day is that we CAN’T fabricate food that’s magically better than the free grown plants and animals we evolved eating for 2 million years. Same with dogs. SCIENCE has shown us, by way of studying DNA, that dogs are so closely related to the grey wolf that their dietary requirements are the same. It’s science that is the foundation for raw feeding, just as it is science that is the foundation of post-modern sustainable agriculture and Paleo eating.

  • Shawna

    Hi Jordgubben ~~ I agree with HDM and Melissa..

    My 5 pound Poms and Chi eat the same exact diet as Toxeds Standard Poodle and HDMs Bloodhounds.. 

    Dr. Karen Becker addressed breed specific diets in an article she wrote.  Here’s a snippet from the article —

    “Think Species-Appropriate, Not Breed-Specific

    I’d suggest pet food manufacturers first concern themselves with making products designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the species they serve. I’d like to see them really nail the basics before venturing into specialty areas like breed-specific, or allergen-free, or weight loss, or senior pet formulas.Dry pet food with little or no high quality animal protein, minimal moisture, but plenty of grains, carbs, allergenic ingredients, non-nutritional fillers, additives and preservatives is not species-appropriate nutrition for any dog, regardless of breed.Strange as it may seem when comparing a Great Dane to a Maltese, dogs of every size and breed are pretty much identical when it comes to their genetic heritage. They are all canine — Canis lupus familiaris.”  http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/12/22/breed-specific-diet-for-dogs.aspxThe other thing is — science doesn’t even have the basic nutrients correct..  As an example — in nature there are 8 forms of vitmain e (all 8 benefit our health in some way).  The 8 forms are alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols and alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocotrienols.  Kibbled dog food manufacturers only add back in alpha tocopherol and sometimes “mixed” tocopherols.  But no tocotrienols.  They have recently discovered that it is one of the tocotrienols that is the ultimate cancer fighter of the vitmain e group…  Dogs don’t get to benefit from those tocotrienols though unless they eat real food…

  • melissa

     Jordgubben-

    Nugget(kibble) size and shape really has nothing to do with a food being nutritionally formulated for a specific breed.

    As for the bird analogy-it completely does not make sense and I think you do feel we are naive to present such an absurd analogy. One can not compare a bird of prey to a primarily seed eater. I can however compare one dog to another as the nutritional requirements for nutrients are the same on a basic level. Sure, there will be dogs that require “more” due to their activities, metabolism etc, but all require the same basic nutrients. My 5lb dog requires the same nutrients as my 100lb dog, just in different ratios with a size allowance.

  • Hound Dog Mom

     http://rawfed.com/myths/designer.html

  • Jordgubben

    I think you guys are naive. If science can take us to outer space, why would one be able to figure out a breeds specific need of nutrients? Just take this very simple example: The jaw of a pug is very narrow. Would a Pug chew a round piece of food as easy as a flat? Why not offer the pug a flat piece of food, when we can obviously see that it’s easier for the dog to chew it? When taking it to the next level, why would a Chihuahua need the same nutrients as a German Shepherd? They have different physics, different behavior and, to be honest, different genetic compounds. Would you feed the same thing to a Canary as you would to an Eagle, just because they are both birds…?

  • Toxed2loss

    LOL! I wished you’d asked!!! I’m dying to know the answer!!!!!

  • Shawna

    I’ve overheard those conversations too — only I’m so obnoxious that I will butt in and give my two cents :)…

  • HealthyDogs

    DFN -Laughing so hard!

  • Dog Food Ninja

    Right? That’s getting about as outlandish as they can get. While listening to their vet yammer on uselessly about this crap, I really wanted to stop her and say, as seriously as possible, “i have a customer that has a neutered labridoodle, so should she be mixing the medium neutered dog formula with the lab formula and the poodle formula? Like a 3rd of each? Or do we need to know what percentage of each breed the dog is, genetically?”.

  • Dog Food Ninja

    Lol iii know! I deal with that nonsense all the time! And what makes it so bad is that RC is one of those pet food companies that actively tries to indoctrinate pet store employees with real official sounding lectures from veterinarians that make all these outlandish claims of breed specific nonsense. They have created a niche market out of thin air, and they charge big money too! The small bags of small breed specific formulas are the most expensive food per pound in my store. And it’s all just the same 5 or 6 (cheap) main ingredients over and over again, just slightly rearranged.

  • melissa

     Omg. I had no idea that they were touting a “spayed/neutered” formula, lol.

  • hounddogmom12

    The hilarious thing is people actually believe their crap. I was i my pet supply store last week and almost died when I over heard this conversation between an employee and a lady that came in with her new chihuahua puppy. The lady asked where the Royal Canin was and the employee asked her if maybe she would like to consider a higher quality brand, he was showing her Acana and she was like “This doesn’t say for a Chihuahua puppy” and the employee was like “It’s suitable for all lifestages so a puppy can eat it too” and the lady was like “But I need a food specifically for a Chihuahua’s special needs, this food doesn’t say anything about Chihuahua’s, Royal Canin has a Chihuahua food.” I had to go to the other side of the store before I died laughing.

  • Dog Food Ninja

    From Royal Canin… the most irresponsibly gimmicky dog food company in the WORLD!! lol  They even have a “spayed/neutered” formula now.  Really?  Really guys?  And all the breed-specific junk… and, I believe they were one of the first to break “senior” down into two age groups; “mature” and “senior”.  Anything to increase their product facings.  Bleh.