Just because you’ve made the (wise) decision to feed your dog a higher-quality food doesn’t mean that finding the right one is going to be easy.
There are so many options to choose from, and each of them claims that their ingredients are the only ones you should even think about feeding your dog. How are you to know which ones are worth feeding your pup?
We’ve compared many of the top brands on the market to find out which ones can back up their bold marketing. Today, we’re comparing Royal Canin and Blue Buffalo, two high-end foods known for placing an emphasis on nutrition.
Which one came out on top? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Blue Buffalo
While Royal Canin has a staggering array of foods to choose from, we prefer the options that Blue Buffalo current offers. We feel they use higher-quality ingredients, and that was enough for us to crown them the winner in this matchup.
The winner of our comparison:
If you’d like to learn more about Blue Buffalo foods, here are three of our favorites:
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Adult
- Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Natural Adult
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult
This doesn’t mean that Royal Canin is a bad food. Far from it. We also identified a few scenarios in which we feel Royal Canin may be the superior food. You can find out what those situations are in the article below.
About Royal Canin
Royal Canin prides itself on doing as much research as possible before making one of their kibbles — and, given how much food they sell, that must mean they’ve done quite a bit of research indeed.
Royal Canin Started in France
The company was founded in 1968 by a French vet named Dr. Jean Cathary. He wanted to make a food that was designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs, as based on his years of research.
The company grew and became a worldwide behemoth, yet they’ve never stopped overseeing every bit of production to ensure that all their foods meet their rigorous standards.
The Brand is Known for Its Breed-Specific Foods
The company makes dozens of different formulas geared towards certain dog breeds, with the intention of offering them the specific nutrition they need.
However, it’s not clear that any of these formulas are better suited for those breeds than a generic high-quality food.
Royal Canin is Owned by Mars, Inc.
While the company started off as an independent business, it was acquired by Mars, Inc. in 2001. Mars owns Pedigree and many other brands, making it the largest pet care company in the world.
Despite being acquired by such a massive conglomerate, Royal Canin has maintained its commitment to making high-quality foods.
They Don’t Always Use the Highest-Quality Ingredients, However
Despite their science-based reputation (and premium prices), the company often uses inferior ingredients like corn, wheat, and animal by-products.
This lowers the quality of some of their foods dramatically, while also making them unsuitable for dogs with sensitive dispositions.
About Blue Buffalo
Blue Buffalo may not be the oldest dog food company around, but they’ve enjoyed explosive growth, quickly becoming one of the top natural brands in the world.
The Company Only Started in 2003
Given how ubiquitous their foods have become in pet stores, you might think that Blue Buffalo is one of the oldest and more established brands in the world.
However, the fact is they’ve been around for less than two decades. Most of their growth can be chalked up to offering premium foods that don’t use any suspect ingredients — and good timing, of course.
Real Meat is Always the First Ingredient
If you look at any Blue Buffalo ingredients list, one thing will remain constant: the first ingredient will be a meat of some kind.
This starts the food off on a solid foundation of protein, which is excellent for dogs of all ages.
They Don’t Use Cheap Fillers or Animal By-Products
Ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat are commonly added to dog kibble to give it a bit of heft without also bulking up the price. However, many dogs have trouble digesting these ingredients.
Similarly, animal by-products are made of the meat that would otherwise have been thrown away. It’s low-grade and nasty — and cheap, which is why it’s so common.
Blue Buffalo doesn’t use any of these ingredients. Thus, it’s a good choice for dogs with sensitive dispositions, or owners that want to be certain they’re feeding their pooch a high-quality food.
That Doesn’t Mean That All Their Food is Highly Nutritious
Their recipes can vary wildly in terms of nutrition levels, so always check the label before buying. After all, just because a food doesn’t have any bad stuff inside it doesn’t mean that it’s full of good stuff.
3 Most Popular Royal Canin Dog Food Recipes
1. Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Maxi Adult
- Royal Canin Large Adult dry dog food (formerly Maxi Adult) is precise nutrition specifically made...
- Promotes healthy digestion with easy-to-digest high-quality proteins and a balanced supply of fiber
This food has a specific target audience: it’s made for large-breed dogs from 15 months to five years of age. With that kind of precision, it must be good, right?
Not necessarily. The ingredients list starts off rocky, with chicken by-product meal as the first ingredient. While this means the food will have a decent amount of protein (24%), it’s not good protein. That said, it should still be full of glucosamine, and bigger dogs need all of that they can get.
There is chicken fat and fish oil in it, though, both of which are full of omega fatty acids. There’s a lot of rice in it too, which can help settle upset stomachs.
Your dog will need all the rice he can get, since it has a ton of problematic foods like wheat and corn in it. These are just empty calories, but they can also cause digestive issues.
This is not a bad food — that’s too harsh. However, mediocre might be a spot-on assessment.
2. Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Medium Adult
- Royal Canin Medium Adult dry dog food is precise nutrition specifically made for dogs 1–7 years...
- Supports natural defenses for immune support with a blend of antioxidants and prebiotics
While the above recipe was targeted at larger dogs, this one is aimed at medium-sized animals. So, what’s the difference?
Well, this recipe still uses low-grade chicken by-product meal, but it gets moved down a spot on the ingredients list. In its place is brewers rice, which is gentle on stomachs, but it still means that this food is full of carbs.
The ingredients seemingly alternate between gentle-on-tummies and potentially problematic. The brewers rice is followed by wheat and corn gluten meal, for example, but further down you’ll find oat groats. The result may be as confusing for your dog’s gut as it was for our brains.
There’s very little fiber in here, either. That’s despite including plain beet pulp and psyllium husk, so we don’t know why they couldn’t beef that number up a bit.
We can’t quibble with the inclusion of fish oil, though. It’s fantastic for dogs of all sizes.
This food is similar to the large breed formula above, but we think it’s a tad bit inferior.
3. Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Large Aging
- Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is precise nutrition specifically...
- Supports long life vitality with an exclusive blend of antioxidants made for healthy aging
This is another highly specific food, as it’s intended for older, large breed animals.
We can at least understand the philosophy behind this one, as it has a bit more protein and fat than the other recipes. This can help dogs feel full without packing on extra pounds, as being overweight is terrible for senior pups.
Still, the protein, fat, and fiber levels are average at best, and the ingredient quality isn’t any better than the other formulas.
One thing we do like about this food is how soft the kibble is. That makes it easier for older dogs to chew, while also making it suitable for animals suffering from periodontal disease.
This is a very pricey food, though, and we can’t really justify the added expense given the overall lack of nutrients. Still, it’s the pick of this particular litter.
3 Most Popular Blue Buffalo Dog Food Recipes
1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Adult
- REAL MEAT FIRST: Blue Buffalo foods always feature real meat as the first ingredient. High-quality...
- LARGE BREED DOG FOOD: Specially formulated for the wellness of adult large breed dogs, BLUE Life...
Given that we examined several large breed Royal Canin formulas, it only seemed fair that we looked at Blue Buffalo’s version, too.
This isn’t much better in terms of overall nutrition: it only has 22% protein and 12% fat (although at 6%, it does have a good amount of fiber). However, the sources of those nutrients are much better.
The food uses real chicken, chicken meal, and chicken fat — no by-products. Also, you won’t find any cheap fillers, as they instead rely on foods like oatmeal, rice, and peas.
There are some superfoods in here too, like flaxseed, fish oil, blueberries, cranberries, and kelp. Those are all packed with important vitamins and minerals.
This formula uses a bit more plant protein than we’d like, and the salt levels are high, but we think it represents a clear improvement on Royal Canin’s formula.
2. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Natural Adult
- STARTS WITH REAL CHICKEN: A recipe that starts with real chicken as the first ingredient, this dry...
- GRAIN FREE DOG FOOD: BLUE Freedom grain free adult dog food is specifically formulated to meet the...
None of Blue Buffalo’s recipes use corn, wheat, or other cheap filler grains, but this one goes one step further by eliminating all forms of gluten. As a result, it’s excellent for dogs with sensitive digestive tracts.
That’s why we’re so surprised to see potatoes so high on the ingredients list. They’re not a bad ingredient, but they do tend to give a lot of dogs gas, so your pup may have some discomfort with this food.
The overall protein level is average at best, but at least it comes from a wide variety of sources: chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and chicken fat. That gives your dog a broad array of essential amino acids.
Like the above food, this one has quite a few superfoods in it, so your dog should get all the vitamins and minerals he needs.
Ultimately, this is a good food, but it’s not one that blows us away. Still, the negatives aren’t worth complaining very loudly about.
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult
- PACKED WITH REAL CHICKEN: A recipe made to satisfy your dog’s natural love for meat, this high...
- GRAIN FREE, HEALTHY WEIGHT DOG FOOD: BLUE Wilderness grain free healthy weight dog food is...
This is one of Blue Buffalo’s highest-end foods, as it’s high protein, grain-free, and healthy weight.
The protein levels are high — 30%, to be exact. The fiber is also very high, at 10%, but the fat levels are mediocre, as they’re also at 10%. Hopefully, the protein should be enough to keep your dog full between meals.
A lot of that protein comes from plants, though, which doesn’t have the same essential amino acids that animal protein does. It’s still good, just not as good.
There’s quite a bit of glucosamine in here, due to the chicken meal, so your dog’s joints should be supported while he drops a few pounds. There are a ton of omega fatty acids too, as it has fish meal, flaxseed, and chicken fat.
This is an excellent food for overweight dogs, and one of our favorites overall (the Wilderness line tends to be our favorite from Blue Buffalo).
Recall History of Royal Canin and Blue Buffalo
While Royal Canin and Blue Buffalo are similar in many ways, their recall histories are drastically different.
Both companies were involved in the Great Melamine Recall of 2007. This affected over 100 brands, as an incident at a Chinese processing plant caused foods to become tainted with melamine, a chemical in plastic that’s lethal to pets. Thousands of animals died from eating bad food, but we don’t know if any died from eating Royal Canin or Blue Buffalo specifically.
Royal Canin also had a recall in 2006 due to elevated vitamin D levels, but they’ve been clean since then.
Despite only having been around since 2003, Blue Buffalo has been active on the recall circuit. They also suffered a vitamin D-related recall in 2010, and in 2015 they had to bring back bones that were contaminated with Salmonella.
Their canned foods have been especially susceptible to recalls. They were recalled in 2016 due to mold, and twice in 2017 — once for having pieces of metal in the food, and another time for having elevated levels of beef thyroid hormone.
Most troubling of all, though, the FDA has linked them (along with at least 15 other foods) with an increased risk of heart disease in dogs. The evidence is far from clear, but the situation bears monitoring.
Royal Canin vs. Blue Buffalo Comparison
In order to give you a better idea of how the two foods stack up next to one another, we compared them head-to-head in the following categories:
Blue Buffalo should be the winner here. They use high-quality meat as their first ingredient, whereas Royal Canin often relies on animal by-product meal.
Think about it this way: do you think you could tell the difference between a prime cut of steak and a hunk of low-grade meat? So can your dog.
Likewise, the fact that Blue Buffalo uses such better meat means they have a more nutritional value. The inferior meat that makes up animal by-products is often stripped of many important nutrients.
Beyond that, Blue Buffalo puts other high-quality ingredients in their foods, like kale, cranberries, and more. All of these help it blow Royal Canin out of the water from a nutritional perspective.
Royal Canin tends to be a little cheaper, but not by as much as you’d expect, given the lower quality of their ingredients.
However, they do have some specialty foods that can be just as expensive as anything Blue Buffalo offers.
Selection is one area in which few companies can compete with Royal Canin. However, their expansive catalogue may not be as impressive as it first appears.
One of their calling cards is the fact that they have many foods that are specially designed for certain breeds. Upon closer examination, though, many of those foods aren’t any better for that breed than any other high-quality food would be.
Still, this category is only about quantity, not quality, so Royal Canin is the clear winner.
We were looking forward to this matchup, but after digging deeply into both brands, we discovered that Royal Canin is kind of a disappointment, especially given its illustrious reputation.
It uses lots of low-quality foods, and it doesn’t offer much nutritional support. To top it all off, it’s fairly expensive.
As a result, it was easy to crown Blue Buffalo the champ here.
This matchup wasn’t as close as we assumed it would be before we started. Blue Buffalo uses better ingredients, has superior nutrition, and is more likely to be tolerated by your dog, making it the easy winner.
You may be tempted to feed your dog one of Royal Canin’s breed-specific foods, and that’s fine if you do your research. However, we’ve largely found that those foods aren’t nearly as good as an all-around high-quality food.
We’re not saying Blue Buffalo is the best food in the world (and we definitely have some concerns about their safety history), but given the choice between it and Royal Canin, we’ll take Blue Buffalo every time.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.
- A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Blue Buffalo
- About Royal Canin
- About Blue Buffalo
- 3 Most Popular Royal Canin Dog Food Recipes
- 3 Most Popular Blue Buffalo Dog Food Recipes
- Recall History of Royal Canin and Blue Buffalo
- Royal Canin vs. Blue Buffalo Comparison