When it comes to dog food, we all want the best for our pups. But in some cases — if your pet has a chronic health condition or severe allergies, for example — what’s best may be a diet so specialized, it requires authorization from your veterinarian.
Once sold exclusively through veterinary clinics, these therapeutic diets (also known as veterinarian-authorized or prescription dog food diets) have become both more common and widely available in recent years. With the proper authorization, pet parents can now purchase therapeutic formulas from many brands in both pet supply stores and online retailers.
It’s no surprise that Royal Canin, a company founded by a veterinarian, is a leader in the growing category of veterinary diets. But is Royal Canin a good dog food for pets with specific health concerns?
To find out, we took a look at three of the brand’s top veterinarian-authorized formulas, what they do, and how they work. Keep reading our Royal Canin dog food reviews to find out how these formulas support good health in dogs.
What is Prescription Dog Food?
Before anything else, it’s important to understand what prescription diets are…and what they are not.
If your dog has been diagnosed with a medical condition that may benefit from a specially formulated food, your veterinarian might provide you with an authorization for a highly-specialized diet as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
However, these diets are not meant to be a magical cure-all or to replace any other recommended health treatment. And, in many cases, they may be a temporary measure.
According to Colorado veterinarian Mackenzie Goldthwait, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital in Highlands Ranch, “Pet owners can expect to use an Rx diet until the disease has resolved or for the life of the pet, depending on the nature of the disease.”
Your veterinarian will advise you how long you should feed your dog this type of food and will track your pet’s condition and progress, along the way.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diets
A global leader in pet health nutrition, Royal Canin was founded in 1968 by French veterinarian Jean Cathary. An early believer in the power of food to improve pet health, Cathary fed his canine patients a special formula — a so-called “yellow soup” that he mixed up in his garage — and soon noticed a huge improvement in the dogs’ skin and coat conditions.
Over 50 years later, the brand is still an innovator in healthy nutrition for pets with countless positive Royal Canin dog food reviews to prove it. In addition to standard pet foods formulated for specific breeds, the brand offers a wide range of veterinary diets designed to help maintain the health of pets with a variety of specific health concerns, including:
- Gastrointestinal formulas for gastrointestinal disorders, liver disease, and convalescence
- Vital Support formulas for renal disease, heart disease, and mobility
- Urinary formulas for lower urinary tract disease
- Dermatology formulas for adverse food reactions and dermatitis
- Weight management formulas for obesity and to support the health of pets with diabetes
- Health management formulas for stress management, oral hygiene, senior health, and optimal weight
Most recipes come in a range of formats to fit many palates, from dry food to canned loaf, slices, and morsels. Royal Canin even offers some formulas as treats, too.
However, just like regular dog food, more pet parents buy therapeutic formulas as dry dog food than any other format. “Dry formulations are indeed less costly and easier to feed,” says Goldthwait.
Royal Canin Dog Food Reviews
To understand how Royal Canin veterinary diets help dogs, we took a deep dive into three of the brand’s leading formulas:
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP Formula for dogs with food sensitivities.
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Formula for dogs with digestive sensitivities, both short-term and long-term.
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Formula for dogs with urinary health problems.
Here’s what we discovered.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP Formula
If your pet has skin reactions or gastrointestinal problems and your veterinarian has determined that the issues are caused by sensitivities to certain proteins, this Royal Canin diet could be the solution.
You may be asking, “What is hydrolyzed protein?” Good question. We all know that protein is essential to good health. However, some dogs have a hard time digesting certain proteins, so they don’t get the benefits they need. Hydrolyzed protein (HP) is pre-processed so it breaks down more easily to release all the nutritional goodness your dog needs.
Royal Canin’s HP formula is less likely to cause your pet’s immune system to react. It also has prebiotics and a blend of fibers for improved digestion. And it provides nutrients that can help promote healthier skin.
When appropriate, Goldthwait has authorized Royal Canin’s HP formula as a veterinary diet for dogs in her care. “The hydrolyzed formulas are very useful in treating my patients with allergies and inflammatory bowel disease,” she says.
- A good option for dogs with food sensitivities that result in gastrointestinal and skin reactions.
- Contains hydrolyzed protein, prebiotics, and fibers to be easily digestible and help reduce gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.
- Helps support the health of a dog’s skin and coat with amino acids, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Highly palatable and appropriate for puppies and adult dogs.
Things to Consider
- Not appropriate for all skin issues, such as those caused by environmental allergens or parasites. Be sure to work with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of skin conditions.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Formula
If your canine companion has trouble digesting fat, standard commercial dog food formulas may trigger digestive upset. This Royal Canin formula is for dogs who experience symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea because they have a sensitive stomach.
Ingredients include Omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibers that help support the gastrointestinal tract, prebiotics that help maintain beneficial bacteria in the gut, and antioxidants that support the immune system.
Goldthwait often authorizes this formula for pets who are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, adding, “It helps to reduce the severity of the gastrointestinal disease and reduces the length of illness.”
- Made with a low amount of fat.
- Contains highly digestible proteins, prebiotics, insoluble and soluble fibers, Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to support digestion, stool quality, and immune health.
- Palatable to help entice dogs to eat when they have a reduced appetite.
- Formulated for dogs with short-term or long-term gastrointestinal disease.
Things to Consider
- There is a wet version of this food, which may help ensure your dog is getting enough moisture.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Formula
Urinary issues in dogs need to be taken seriously, so if you notice any sudden changes in your dog’s pee or they demonstrate pain when peeing, schedule a visit to your veterinarian immediately.
If your veterinarian detects any issues with your dog’s bladder or urinary tract, this Royal Canin diet may be part of their treatment plan. The URINARY SO formula is specifically designed to support the health of dogs with urinary health concerns.
This food is formulated to help reduce the occurrence of struvite and calcium oxalate stones and crystals. It can help dissolve stones, as well as help prevent them from forming.
This is another formula that Goldthwait says she frequently authorizes to “help reduce the recurrence of bladder stones.”
- Supports the health of the bladder and urinary tract.
- Formulated for dogs who suffer from crystals and stones, with ingredients that can help prevent those problems from recurring.
- Contains a lower amount of magnesium.
Things to Consider
- Your veterinarian might recommend this food long-term if your dog has recurring urinary problems.
- This food can work on calcium oxalate and struvite crystals and stones, so it may not be the right choice if your dog has been diagnosed with a different type.
Is Prescription Diet Dog Food Right for Your Dog?
Ultimately, it is up to your veterinarian to decide whether your dog would benefit from a veterinary diet. However, pet parents can play an important role in this decision by learning more about how these diets work and the role they can play in your pet’s long-term health.
In addition, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for warning signs of health concerns that may benefit from a therapeutic diet.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, ask your veterinarian if Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP Formula could help:
- Ear inflammation
- Recurring skin infections
- Hair loss
- Redness of the skin, sores, or rashes
- Gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, or vomiting
If you notice any of the following symptoms, ask your veterinarian if Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Formula could help:
- Excessive salivation
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry, brittle coat
If you notice any of the following symptoms, ask your veterinarian if Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Formula could help:
- Blood in urine
- Difficulty urinating
- Urinating frequently
- Urinating in strange places
If your pet develops an ailment that might be reduced or resolved with the help of a dietary adjustment, consider asking your veterinarian about the best options available. They can discuss specific dog food ingredients and their benefits, as well as guide you through the process of transitioning your pet to a new food, whether it’s a temporary or permanent change.