Review of Royal Canin, Hills Science Plan, Burns
Always Read the Labels on Pet Food Packaging. Highlighted Reds shown below, means potentially controversial ingredients
“When food is difficult to metabolise, not only is it robbing the body of vital nutrients, it is robbing the body of energy as well. Energy is wasted when the body works harder to digest food, assimilate nutrients and eliminate toxins.” Lisa S. Newman, N.D., PhD (2007)
I wrote an article in 2015 on two of the biggest selling brands of dog food in the UK, it went viral.
Within that article, I explained the ingredients of the two top-selling dog foods in the UK (1) Bakers and Pedigree.
I also mentioned that I would be writing about some of our leading premium dog foods, often manufactured by the same big four pet food manufacturers.
It may just surprise you as to what some of these premium pet foods really contain in the way of quality ingredients.
These are the four main manufacturers. Though one of the foods I assess here Burns is independent.
Mars: Pedigree, Cesar, Chappie, Frolic, Pal, Nutro, Greenies, James Wellbeloved, Royal Canin, Royal Canin Veterinary Diets.
Nestle: Bakers, Bonio, Winalot, Beta, ProPlan, Purina One, Purina Veterinary Diets.
Colgate-Palmolive: Hills Science Plan, Hills Prescription Diets.
Proctor & Gamble: Eukanuba, Iams.
Mars the company that makes Pedigree also owns James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin. They are also tied into the veterinary profession by Royal Canin Veterinary Diets. These four companies are the market leaders. With massive buying power and the ability to fund lavish TV, newspapers and magazine advertising. That means they have basically cornered the pet food market.
We see hoardings, ads, and vet referrals extolling the quality and health-giving properties of their wonderful products. If only the ingredients were as good as the hype.
Pet Food Domination: Most vets now recommend pet foods from one of the big four. These manufacturers are certainly not stupid. They understand the importance of veterinary recommendations and spend millions on securing their positions. They sponsor nutritional modules at veterinary colleges and there can be monetary incentives for some veterinary practices.
With millions going on advertising, sponsorship, special offers and incentives, you would have thought the ingredients may consequently suffer. I strongly believe that in some cases you would be absolutely right. I believe the ingredients leave much to be desired, especially at the price you have to pay for what I believe are cheap fillers.
So let’s look at some of these ingredients and what they mean to your dog or cat. However, first, let me explain the problems we have with labelling in the UK. If you were purchasing the same items in America, where the ingredients are far more transparent., you would get a very different story than the ingredients we see on the UK packaging.
I believe it is high time that any food manufacturer, whether for pets or human consumption should list all the additives and ingredients on their packaging. Then we can be totally clear on what we are actually feeding our pets and families.
FACT: The most commonly noticed source of skin odour and flatulence are from dogs fed cereal-based dog foods.
Royal Canin: One of the most popular super-premium dog foods on the UK market, also available in Europe and America.
They claim that their food is breed specific and specially manufactured for all the main breeds.
The reality! There is no corroborating evidence that dogs of different sizes, breeds and ages actually benefit from any specialised diets.
I would be very interested in learning exactly what, as a percentage, is the difference in ingredients between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua, other than the size of kibble and the tinkering with some of the additives.
Perhaps with my cynical hat on, I could suggest it may be just a sly marketing ploy to attract the buyer. Rather than any nutritional value related to specific breeds.
I know that many packs of whatever breed of Royal Canin dog food you buy will contain poultry meal, rice, maize and wheat, none of which are particularly desirable in dog food.
That information is corroborated by many pet and canine nutritionists and vets who understand that problems cheap fillers cause our pets. In this article I have specifically looked at Royal Canin Medium Adult variety and its ingredients:
Royal Canin Medium Adult: £57.99 for 15 KG: Dehydrated Poultry Protein, Maize/Corn Maize Flour, Wheat, Wheat Flour, Animal Fats, Pork Protein, Hydrolysed Animal Proteins, Beet Pulp, Fish Oil, Yeasts, Minerals, Hydrolysed Brewer’s Yeast Artificial Preservatives, Antioxidants. Anything coloured red is contentious
Poultry is acceptable; though it is better to look for meats with named meat sources (like chicken, turkey, duck etc.); Many dogs can have a chicken allergy but not turkey, duck or geese.
Maize generally called corn in the UK, this is certainly amongst the most contentious of ingredients. With the food manufacturers being the most vocal for its use. The ones against it are mainly canine nutritionists and some vets who now recommend avoiding maize-based diets altogether. They claim that it is harder for dogs to digest, and difficult to metabolise and is likely to lead to food intolerance or allergies. Since the early 1800s maize and wheat has been known as chickenfeed the term means cheap and a trifling sum.
Wheat is often seen in lower-grade dog food; it is a cheap filler and makes forming biscuits and kibble easier. Wheat intolerant dogs are quite common. The gluten protein contained in the grain damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. Wheat intolerance can lead to wide-ranging health issues that most commonly affects the skin, coat and digestive system. Maize and wheat have both been consistently linked to dietary intolerance and digestive problems they have also been linked along with gluten for the explosion in dental disease in dogs.
Hydrolysed Animal Proteins this ingredient is contentious for a number of reasons: The process of hydrolysis uses acids or enzymatic action which is severely criticised by natural feeding advocates. Secondly, during this breakdown of proteins monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be formed. MSG is classified as a food additive and flavour enhancer and has been linked with food addiction in humans. But when added to foods in this way it does not need to be declared.
The final issue with hydrolysed animal proteins is that you have no way of knowing which parts of the animal do the proteins come from. It could come from parts humans or even animals would never dream of eating.
Antioxidants inhibit the destructive effects of oxidation (decay) therefore it is artificial preservative. There are wide-ranging concerns over their effects on health. Antioxidants BHA (E320), and Propyl Gallate (E310) have long been suspected of contributing to cancer. Another common preservative is potassium sorbate (E202), which is listed as a skin, eye and respiratory irritant. These Antioxidants are in some if not all of Royal Canin’s range of dog foods.
Needless to say, while there is any uncertainty over their side effects, these ingredients are probably best avoided. The term ‘antioxidant’ includes all sorts of additives, from natural vitamin E to some of the most contentious chemicals found in pet foods such as BHA and BHT.
The other problem is that no percentages are provided for any of the ingredients making it very difficult to gauge the true quality of the food. That also allows the ratios of the ingredients to change from batch to batch. Although in this case, a meat ingredient has come first, that, in reality, is probably not true.
There is a controversial practice known as ‘grain splitting’. Ingredients have to be listed in order of their amount, so the nearer the top, the more of that ingredient is in the food.
By splitting a grain into different components – in this case, 4 components, maize + maize flour and also wheat + wheat flour.
That allows the grains to drop down the ingredients list making it appear that meat is the first ingredient. when It probably isn’t.
In reality, the real ingredient list could read Maize, Wheat, Dehydrated Poultry Protein.
Not exactly the mark of super-premium dog food, and actually leading the general public into believing the top ingredient is meat
Further down the list, we find more controversial ingredients: unspecified animal fats and hydrolysed animal proteins.
The practice of grain splitting is certainly not illegal. Whether it is morally questionable is another matter and one that you can decide for yourself. I believe it smacks of contempt for the people buying their pet foods in good faith. This is very pricey dog food by any stretch is the imagination. Do the ingredients warrant the price? The easy answer is “NO”
Overview: Very Pricey, Unclear Labelling, Maize and Wheat, Grain Splitting, Artificial Additives. Poultry Labelling unclear. Positives? Nice Bag.
This is from a consumer affairs website with 324 reviews, Very Frightening (2) Royal Canin. Please use the breakdown on Royal Canin to make your decision on the other two manufacturers.
If this concerns you just check out my article on (1) Bakers and |Pedigree I have also written an article called (3) Dog Food and Behaviour which I think you will find interesting as I test and grade a number of dog foods on my own dogs.
Hills Science Plan Adult Advanced Fitness Large Breed: £50.49 for 12KG: You will see Science Plan along with Royal Canin in many Vet practices.
The name I believe is meant to suggest a scientific endorsement.
I wonder how many of the staff and vets in the numerous practices where this food is sold, have ever turned over the package and read the ingredients?
A number of Science Plans products are billed to help overcome skin and food intolerances.
If that is their claim, then why are they putting ingredients like Maize, Wheat, and Maize Gluten Meal into the ingredients?
Chicken: Maize, Wheat, chicken (26%) and turkey meal (total poultry 39%), Animal Fat, Digest, Maize Gluten Meal, vegetable oil, minerals, beet pulp, flaxseed, vitamins, trace elements, taurine, cartilage hydrolysate (source of chondroitin sulphate), crustacean shell hydrolysate (source of glucosamine) and beta-carotene. Naturally preserved with citric acid and mixed tocopherols.
Maize and Wheat: I have already covered Maize and Wheat in the Royal Canin Ingredients so please refer back to that information.
Animal Fats: this could refer to literally any fat of any quality from any animal. This allows the manufacturer to alter the ingredients depending on what fats are cheapest at the time of manufacture. Experts recommend looking for foods where the sources of the fats and oils are clearly stated.
Digest: is a controversial ingredient. The process of chemical/enzymatic hydrolysis is far from what most people would regard as ‘natural’ and it is therefore widely criticised by natural feeding advocates. It is also usually unclear what products of that animal digest is derived from. I would recommend looking for both the animal and the part of the animal to be specified (e.g. ‘chicken liver digest’ instead of just ‘digest’).
Maize Gluten Meal: T: This is a by-product of maize processing and can be used to top-up the protein levels of dog foods, usually as a cheap alternative to more expensive meat proteins. Unfortunately, maize gluten protein is not as easy for dogs to deal with as protein from meat sources and as a result, it can lead to health issues like skin problems and hyperactivity. For this reason, Canine Nutrition Experts normally recommend steering clear of maize gluten, especially with sensitive dogs.
So why is this food recommended for dogs with food sensitivity? I am afraid grain is not the mark of a quality high-end range of food. And certainly not what could be described as natural feeding.
Overview: Pricey, Unclear on which poultry parts are used, Maize and Wheat (cheap fillers). Reduced bag size to 12 kg Positives: No Artificial Preservatives.
Recent Update Hills Science Plan Has to Recall Some of Its Dog Food Range
How can a company with multi-million pounds turnover get it so wrong? Recommended by Vets (though that does not impress me) and specially formulated as a Prescription diet and longevity and it has the potential to kill our dog’s? Vitamin D overdoses can be very serious and can cause renal failure and death. This is the Governments health warning website and lists the Hills dog food that has been urgently recalled. (5) Urgent Product Recall Hills Science Plan.
This is the first complaint in a list of 404 reviews about this food and it is harrowing reading:
Nancy of Rochester, Verified Reviewer Original review: Feb. 19, 2019: Tragically my Pomeranian, Mr Bojangles is positively a victim of their recall. 🙁 He was put on Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D in October because of tummy troubles. He ate 4 affected cases. Had severe diarrhoea, vomiting and, at least, two seizures. Copious drinking. Pretty much stopped eating no matter what we offered. He died in my arms on January 21st, 2019. When I heard of the recall, I contacted my Vet to see if the cases he ate were part of the recall. They checked their records and found they received a shipment of the affected food in September. Bo started eating it in October. (6) List of 404 Complaints and Reviews Hills Science Plan.
Burns Choice Chicken and Maize: £41.00 12kg: Burns has brought out a cheaper variety of their most common and classic recipes, it is called Burns Choice.
The ingredients are Whole Grain Maize 71% Chicken Meal 17% Peas, Chicken Oil, Seaweed, Vitamins, and Minerals.
The amount of Maize (corn) in this product is extreme. Dogs are not chickens. The saying Chicken Feed comes to mind.
Given the concerns of many canine nutritionists and some Vets, I am very surprised that this product has been marketed at all.
How can this food be described as Hypoallergenic? This means (having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction) when you have a grain that is deemed contentious by so many people and dog food manufacturers.
Let me remind you of what I said earlier. ”Maize is certainly amongst the most contentious of ingredients. With the food manufacturers being the most vocal for its use.”
The ones against it are canine nutritionists and some vets who now recommend avoiding maize-based diets altogether.
They claim that it is harder for dogs to digest, and is likely to lead to food intolerance or allergies. Hypoallergenic is not a word I would use to describe this ingredient.
I have had certain reservations about Burns dog food for some time now. For instance, the amount of brown or white rice instead of quality meat protein in most of the Burns products is excessive. Brown rice is certainly far better than white rice. However, white rice is now creeping into some of the Burns recipes as one of the main ingredients.
White Rice is simply brown rice that has been milled and polished to remove outer bran, germ and aleurone layers (aleurone is a protein occurring as granules in some plants) unfortunately, these layers contain the vast majority of the grain’s nutrients and once removed the remaining white rice is almost entirely starch. Why would dogs need starch as the main ingredient?
A number of dogs I have seen fed on Burns have resorted to Coprophagia (eating faeces) of other dogs or their own or grazing animals such as sheep deer rabbits cows etc. The fact that dogs may lose too much weight can be worrying. Though I have to say that can be positive in some cases. Nonetheless, I have always believed in the past that Burns was an ethical and honest company. In fact, I used to feed my own dogs on it and recommended Burns about 8/9 years ago.
John Burns started the Burns food company because of the poor ingredients in many other dog foods. That begs the question why is he now putting 71% Maize into dog food? It is well known as a cheap filler, so the only explanation I can think of is the green-eyed god of profit I certainly could never suggest that it was in the best interest of the dogs.
Some of Burns other products are almost as high in rice content as the maize. For instance, his original recipe has 67% brown rice. That is a lot of rice being pumped into your dog every day, day in day out. At the top of the Burns website, it says “Natural Food for Pets”. Surely Maize and Rice as the main ingredients cannot be described as natural for dogs by any stretch of the imagination?
I believe that at one time Burns only ever used Brown Rice, white rice is creeping into some of Burns range. Their Active recipes with chicken have 38% white rice. It is far cheaper than brown rice, why is it cheaper? very simple brown is far more nutritious than white rice. Let me explain why. When rice is harvested it is always brown. Rice has three layers. The outer layer, the husk, is removed because it is useless, the middle layer is the rice bran, a sort of thin coating of thin brownish skin. The inner layer is white rice.
Due to the fact that bran has a whole lot of vitamins and minerals that the inner white part of the rice doesn’t have, the nutrition you get from brown rice increases dramatically. When you remove the bran it is then sold to make bran oil and bran flakes leaving the vastly inferior white rice. Brown rice has twice as much magnesium, fibre, and protein compared to white rice.
Conclusion: Very expensive for what is effectively a bag of corn. Bag size only 12KG Positives: No Artificial Preservatives, good ingredients in the remainder of the recipe. John Burns is a very nice man, on a personal basis, I have worked at Crufts with him. That does not mean I can accept the ingredients he puts in his food now.
Be aware that all these nasty ingredients are also in many of the manufactured treats, often made by the same companies like pedigree, bakers and the ones above plus many others. Click the picture left to go to my full range of air-dried totally natural dog treats.
You can feed the best dog food in the world but if you give treats to your dogs without care and consideration to the ingredients you are undoing all that good work. I now sell what I believe are the most natural and ethical treats available anywhere in the UK.
I started my own range of Doglistener Premium Treats in Autumn 2018. I did that because I wanted to be absolutely certain that the treats I was selling were ethical and truly natural.
I needed to be able to guarantee their provenance and I needed them to fulfil ethical criteria that I personally believe in.
For them to fulfil those requirements, they have to be from free-range animals, all grown as nature intended with no growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics and non-halal and from EU regulated livestock. totally natural without any additives colourants or even spices. They must be from human-grade animals, not the so-called 4-D meat that gets its name from diseased, dying, disabled and dead livestock,
Once I had found suitable suppliers from only EU countries which have stringent requirements regarding animal husbandry I had one final condition
I wanted the treats to be once dried, to be packaged and sent directly to me, not stored in warehouses for months if not years like many brands of treats and food. (8) Doglistener. Totally Natural Air Dried Dog Treats
My Opinion. I think we are being mugged by some of the manufacturers of pet foods.
The labelling is unclear, ingredients are often hidden or moved down the list by smoke and mirror tactics, like grain splitting.
Products are marketed as hypoallergenic. When the ingredients suggest that is certainly not the case.
In America, we can look at the full ingredients, but in the UK, we cannot.
That really needs to be changed sooner rather than later. Science must get up to date on these apparently contentious ingredients.
The foods above are better than some of the ones I have written about before, Bakers and Pedigree being a prime example.
However, these three brands are often called the best of the best, when in my opinion they certainly are not. I do not feed my five dogs with any grain or rice products. I am also very careful of all the other ingredients we often see or don’t see in the labelling.
Hills sponsored the British Veterinary Association’s 2009 Congress (the biggest meeting on the veterinary calendar). I wonder why? Hills was also there in the last few years. It has also signed a partnership with the British Veterinary Dental Association to sponsor tooth care in animals. A spokesman for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons adds:
‘It would be ideal if universities could be funded through purely independent sources. But in reality, we cannot condemn them for accepting money from commercial sources”. They know it’s wrong morally and ethically but it is all about the money. I believe the veterinary profession have seriously damaged their reputation and professional standing in the community by what is seen as greed, avarice and unprofessional behaviour. I am certainly not talking about all vets I know many that are totally ethical and professional. My concern is they may actually be in the minority.
It is not just the dog food it also includes overvaccination, paediatric neutering, overuse of antibiotics and recommending procedures and tests when they are sometimes not required. In some cases, they have a tendency to show arrogance and poor service. I have written an article about my concerns about the veterinary profession. (7) Is The Veterinary Profession Broken I believe some Vetsd could be complicit in the fact that our dogs are dying earlier than they were 10/12 years ago (7) Dogs are Dying 11% Sooner Than Ten Years Ago.
I believe there is a shift in public opinion on how they perceive scientists and professionals. They are in some instances coming to the conclusion they are being mugged by large conglomerates and multinationals. I believe a sea change is coming that will shock the pet world and will shock the professions that see the general public as cash cows. It cannot come soon enough.
As a footnote, I would like to repeat the quote from Lisa S. Newman, N.D., PhD.
“When food is difficult to metabolise, not only is it robbing the body of vital nutrients, it is robbing the body of energy as well. Energy is wasted when the body works harder to digest food, assimilate nutrients and eliminate toxins.” Lisa S. Newman, N.D., PhD (2007)
if you found this article interesting please sign up for my Newsletters and get all my latest articles, information and comments.
Newsletter Sign Up
©Stan Rawlinson February 2016
Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer
regularly updated last updated November 2020
None of the manufacturers has contacted me or deigned to reply, including the articles I wrote last year on Pedigree and Bakers. That is except John Burns. That does not surprise me. Sadly I think he believes his own hype.
John Burns Reply:
John Burns has decided to rebut all my claims and prove it by quoting Dr Sherry Lynn Sanderson. He says: “Last month I attended a lecture by Dr Sheryl Sanderson at the North American Veterinary Conference in Florida. Unlike Mr Rawlinson, Dr Sanderson knows a thing or two about pet nutrition. Professor Sanderson DVM PhD DACVIM DACVN spoke, amongst other things, about some of the myths surrounding maize as pet food. She explained that maize contained many useful nutrients, the details of which I will spare you for now.”
I suppose you can take a guess on what I discovered about Dr Sherry. Sherry Lynn Anderson is a highly paid advisor to none other than Iams and Eukanuba, owned by Proctor and Gamble. One of the four leading pet food conglomerates. You can also guess what one of the main ingredients in both of these pet foods are? Maize and Wheat. Do I have to say anymore? If Mr Burns is going to quote a reliable scientific source, then please make it one that is not in the thrall and the pockets of a major pet food manufacturer
He also stated: “If Mr Rawlinson fancies himself as a commentator on pet nutrition I suggest he sets aside a considerable chunk of his time for Continuing Professional Development before writing any more” He signs this off as John Burns BVMS MRCVS.
I wonder if Mr Burns would enlighten us about how much Continuing Professional Development he has done in the last 23 years since launching Burns? How much actual vet work has he done to keep abreast of scientific knowledge? He reminds everyone that his food was created by a vet, but certainly not a current practising vet. I was a professional soldier, a musician and senior management in financial services, however, you do not see me crowing about it years later.
I think Mr Burns should look up the term “coefficient of fermentation.” when comparing animals’ gastrointestinal systems, it might be best not to think about length, girth, volume, or capacity. It might be more appropriate to look at the “coefficient of fermentation” of the animal you are feeding.
Herbivores have a high ability to extract nutrition from plant matter as the result of their ability to ferment it, and therefore have a high coefficient of fermentation. Carnivores and some Omnivores aren’t equipped to do this, especially when they have short digestive tracts, therefore they have a low “coefficient of fermentation”. Interestingly, the coefficient of fermentation is similarly low in both dogs and cats.
Dogs have really short digestive tracts and are adapted to metabolise animal flesh and fat, not grains, starch, carbs and simple sugars. If the natural design of dogs precludes the need for carbs, why would we feed them carbs, including grain? If their bodies aren’t designed to use carbs, why would we feed them something their digestive tracts aren’t equipped to process?
If John Burns thinks Maize/Corn is so good then let’s see him eat a meal with 71% of it as a carbohydrate filled with starch every single day for the next 15 years. Remember he is recommending this as whole food. Therefore, you should feed this and nothing else. Dogs are not chickens? Why is it that good dog food manufacturers actually state in large letters across their merchandise Free of all Maize and Wheat?
Simple. Science and knowledge have come on leaps and bounds in the last 30 years. The general public’s awareness through mediums like the internet and magazines has made them more discerning and knowledgeable. Would you feed your family 71% corn every day for the rest of their lives?
Why is John Burns suggesting we feed our dogs it? Actually, it is very simple it is all about profit and ease of manufacture. When you study a dog’s natural ancestral history, there is no mention of Maize. That is, until 1956. That was the year kibble was created. So, why did the introduction of kibble bring with it such a dramatic rise in the use of corn/maize in making dog food?
What suddenly made carbohydrates like corn, grains, and potatoes so popular with the pet food industry? The truth is Carbohydrates are cheap. Carbohydrates are vital to the kibbling process. Corn is not put into commercial dog food because it contributes some unique nutritional properties. No! It’s there simply because it supplies cheap calories for the product. And starchy carbohydrates play a critical role in a process known as gelatinization — a process that is absolutely crucial to the workings of kibble machinery.
How often do you find corn or other cereal grains in raw or canned dog food? Corn makes any pet food less expensive to produce. And it does this to reduce the more costly meat ingredients. Corn saves money for manufacturers. However, to advertise that corn is included in commercial dog food mainly because of its nutritional benefits is misleading and in my humble opinion a gross misrepresentation of the truth and the facts. I think that may be a polite way of saying it is a lie.
This Burns recipe gets a low 2.9 out of 5 on the All About Pet Food Site. That site also states: “maize falls a long way short of brown rice in terms of its nutrients and from our experience, it is much more likely to cause dietary intolerance than rice. With a disappointing 16-19% meat (compared with 70% maize!) this food falls a long way short of the standards you would expect at this price”.
I could not put it better myself.
(2) Royal Canin
(3) My Article on The Dog Food I Tested and Recommend (Dog Food and Behaviour)
Thanks to the following for invaluable information and guidance.
All About Dog Food http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ for their invaluable knowledge and help.
Natural News.com http://www.naturalnews.com/012647.html#ixzz37dbufAcU
Other In-Depth Research by
regular updates last updated Feb 2019
Dangers of Spaying and Castrating Dogs Overview