Royal Canin and Hill’s Science Diet are two well-known brands that fit into a similar niche, promising great veterinary research and helping to feed dogs of all kinds, including those with severe health issues. Both have strong veterinary backing and are recommended by many vets. But if faced with a choice between the two brands, it can be hard to know the difference. Here is a comparison of the two brands and their favorite foods.
A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Hill’s Science Diet
Hill’s Science Diet is our recommended brand for most dogs, with delicious, healthy ingredients, balanced nutrition, and lots of great options. Their chicken and rice recipe is one of our favorite options, but if your dog doesn’t like chicken or has allergies, their lamb meal food is another delicious choice.
About Royal Canin
Royal Canin was founded in 1968 by a French veterinarian looking for solutions to diet-caused health issues. The brand expanded in 1972 when it was bought by a larger company, and since then, it’s become a leader in veterinary research for dogs and cats. They sponsor pet encyclopedias, create obesity clinics for animals, and make a variety of food products.
Royal Canin has three main food types: size-based foods, breed-based foods, and veterinary foods. Their size-based foods are general-purpose pet foods optimized for specific sizes and age groups—for instance, a large-breed puppy food. Their breed-based foods are made for specific breeds, like a Golden Retriever food, and designed for purebred dogs. Finally, they offer a variety of prescription foods that require a vet’s approval to use.
About Hill’s Science Diet
Hill’s Science Diet started with a guide dog who suffered from kidney disease in the early 1900s. When the dog’s owner brought him to a vet, Dr. Mark Morris, Dr. Morris thought that diet changes could help manage the disease. His diet worked, and by the 1940s, Dr. Morris had partnered with Hill Packaging Company to create Hill’s Science Diet. Today, the company is owned by Colgate-Palmolive Group and is a favorite of vets worldwide.
Hill’s Science Diet produces standard and prescription foods, just like Royal Canin. Their standard foods come in a variety of types, including foods for health conditions that don’t require prescription care, like sensitive stomach foods. They also have allergy-friendly foods and weight loss foods. Like Royal Canin, they have a variety of foods made for dogs of different sizes and ages. They also have a wide line of prescription dog foods available.
The 3 Most Popular Royal Canin Dog Food Recipes
1. Royal Canin Size Health Medium Dry Food
Royal Canin’s most popular food outside of their prescription diets is their medium dog food. This food is formulated for dogs from 23–55 pounds. It has an enhanced kibble design to promote chewing and balanced nutrition, with 23% crude protein, 12% crude fat, and 3.2% fiber. The main ingredients are brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, oat groats, wheat, corn gluten meal, and chicken fat. It’s generally a red flag to see something other than meat or a meat meal as the first product in this food, and it calls into question how the 23% protein is reached.
Neither of the main protein sources, chicken by-product meal or corn gluten meal, are high quality. Chicken by-product meal is a concentrated chicken product from lower quality sources. Corn gluten meal is an inexpensive plant protein. Plant proteins are not ideal and dogs don’t get as much nutritional value from Corn gluten meal as they would from chicken meal or similar foods.
2. Royal Canin Size Health Large Dry Food
Royal Canin Size Health Large Food is recommended for dogs weighing 56 to 100 pounds and is one of Royal Canin’s most popular foods. It is about 24% crude protein and 15% crude fat—higher than other products on this list. It is also optimized for large breeds in other ways, with more nutrients to support bone and joint health and kibble that is designed for larger dogs. The main ingredients are chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat, brown rice, chicken fat, and corn gluten meal. Chicken by-product meal is a concentrated chicken product made from less desirable chicken parts. It’s a lower-quality chicken product. Brewers rice, wheat and brown rice are healthy whole grains that are easy to digest. Chicken fat is a common and healthy fat source in dog foods.
3. Royal Canin Size Health Small Food
Royal Canin’s small dog foods are made for dogs weighing up to 22 lbs. The kibble size and nutritional balance is optimized for the needs of smaller dogs. This food is 25% protein and 14% fat—ideal levels for a dog of that size. The main ingredients are corn, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, brown rice, and corn gluten meal. A good rule of thumb is that meat should always be the first ingredient. Although there are healthy, high-protein foods that don’t follow this rule, the fact that the first, third, and fourth ingredients are all grains is worrying. Chicken by-product meal is also an inferior, lower-quality meat source.
The 3 Most Popular Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Recipes
1. Hill’s Science Diet Chicken & Barley
Hill’s Science Diet Chicken & Barley is one of the brand’s most popular foods and is a good choice for most healthy dogs. It has 20% crude protein, 11% crude fat, and 4% crude fiber. That puts it on the lower end of the ideal spectrum for protein and fat content, but it is still a healthy choice. The first ingredient in this food is chicken, followed by barley, wheat, corn, and sorghum. All of these are common whole grains that are relatively healthy. It also contains soybean meal, a plant-based protein source that is less healthy than meat proteins.
This food has a blend of omega fatty acids, E-vitamins, and antioxidants that support coat, joint, and immune system health and flavorful, easy-to-digest ingredients.
2. Hill’s Science Diet Lamb Meal & Brown Rice
If you prefer to feed your dog something other than chicken, Hill’s Science Diet Lamb Meal and Brown Rice is an option. It has 19.5% crude protein and 12.5% crude fat, a little lower than ideal but still in normal range. The main protein source in this food is lamb meal, a concentrated lamb that’s healthy and delicious. It makes a great alternative for dogs who don’t like lamb. The main grains are brown rice, brewers rice, sorghum, wheat, corn, and barley. This mix of grains gives your dog plenty of whole grains, but the lower protein content suggests that this food might be carb-heavy. A blend of E-vitamins, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients help support your dog’s overall health. This food is recommended for dogs one to six years of age.
3. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Skin and Stomach
Hill’s Science Diet is well known for its range of products for dogs with health issues, including their Sensitive Skin and Stomach food. This food is made with easy-to-digest chicken, barley, and rice in order to make it easier on dogs’ stomachs. It contains vitamin E and omega fatty acids that are good for dogs with sensitive skin. It has 20% crude protein and 13% crude fat. The protein content is a little bit on the lower end, but it’s still within the range of acceptable food. One thing we don’t love about this food is that the third ingredient is yellow peas. Peas are a controversial dog food ingredient that has been used as a filler food and has some links to heart health issues that are still being studied. Having peas high on the ingredients list is concerning.
Recall History of Royal Canin and Hill’s Science Diet
Hill’s Science Diet has had several recalls. The most recent recall was in 2019 when Hill’s Science Diet recalled about 45 products due to vitamin D toxicity. This is caused when a dog food has too much Vitamin D added. In November 2015, Hill’s issued a withdrawal of certain canned foods for unknown reasons that didn’t affect the food’s safety. In June 2014, 62 bags of food in California were recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination. In March 2007, Hill’s Science Diet was one of more than 100 brands that experienced recalls due to dangerous packaging containing melamine.
Royal Canin has also had several recalls. They were also affected by the 2007 melamine recall. They issued a second recall a few months later for the same issues as the first recall. In February 2006, they issued a recall due to elevated vitamin D3 levels in some of their foods.
Royal Canin vs Hill’s Science Diet Comparison
Royal Canin has a reputation for good flavor, with a variety of wet and dry foods that are very flavorful and delicious textures that dogs love. Hill’s Science Diet is similar in quality, but it doesn’t have quite as strong of a reputation among owners.
- Edge: Hill’s Science Diet
In general, Hill’s Science Diet has better ingredients, but Royal Canin has more protein and fiber. Hill’s Science Diet doesn’t use chicken by-products in its mainline foods, and they usually have real meat as the first ingredient. Both depend on plant proteins to some extent in their foods.
- Edge: Hill’s Science Diet
Both brands are pretty pricey, and if your dog doesn’t have health issues, other brands might be better. However, Hill’s Science Diet is generally cheaper in both its general and veterinary products.
- Edge: Hill’s Science Diet
Both brands create a variety of prescription diet products. Royal Canin also creates a line of breed-specific foods. But when it comes to general dog foods, Hill’s Science Diet has more flavor options, specialized foods, and other choices to help your dog eat the best possible foods.
- Edge: Hill’s Science Diet
Overll, we love Hill’s Science diet for their great research, lower prices, and long history of bringing great food to animals in need. Royal Canin can be an excellent food as well in the right circumstances however.
Both Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin have their pros and cons, but in the end, we decided that Hill’s Science Diet was the best choice. Hill’s Science Diet is a nutritious product and often comes at a lower price. It also has more options available and is often a better choice for dogs needing specialized diets. However, it does have lower protein than Royal Canin, and some dogs on veterinary diets may do better with Royal Canin products.