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~~*~~*~~ Royal Canin Starter Reproduction Kibble ~~*~~*~~ For those of you who are unfamiliar with my reviews, here is a quick summary - I own a 3 year old chocolate Labrador called Pig who recently had 12 beautiful piglets. Done. 12 puppies is a big litter for any dog and this was Pigsy's first litter so I wanted to wean them early onto solids. In the past we've always used weetabix, eggs and milk and the pups have been just fine, however, because I was doing it so early I wanted to use something smoother, more palatable and more gentle on their delicate bellies. I was already using Royal Canin Babydog milk and was more than impressed with the fact that all the pups were still alive and kicking - quite a miracle, so I asked around and decided to go with Royal Canin's starter kibble designed for weaning and for use up to the age of 8 weeks. I notice that the Royal Canin website seems to have a different starter kibble on sale now designed for each weight category but anyhoo, I'll be writing about the Reproduction Starter. ~~*~~ The Purchase ~~*~~ I went to the Royal Canin website and entered my special breeder code which means that there is free delivery on orders over 20kg and some kind of discount which I think was about 2% but every little helps. For a 10kg bag I paid £27.15 - random but true. There are other places on the Tinterweb to purchase from such as Pets at Home - £40.99 (online only), zooplus - £41.99, Seapets, £39.95 etc. Note that it isn't the kind of food readily available as most dog owners won't be using it! The delivery arrived 3 days later in cardboard boxes and left round the back of the house as requested - excellent service by Royal Canin. ~~*~~ The Packaging ~~*~~ The bag was a substantial plastic so that should I have had a chewer in the house, they'd have never made their way through it and neither did it matter if the bottom got wet - however, it wasn't resistant to the heat from the hob when my mother left it to melt on there - some of the biscuits were a bit burnt but it all worked out ok in the end, idiot. The downside to a bag with a melted hole in the bottom is that it didn't have a resealable top - I'm lucky that Pig won't help herself to open bags but I suspect that a lot of Labrador owners won't be able to leave a bag of food around for very long. The instructions for use are on the side of the bag with quantities for each size of adult breed. ~~*~~ The Kibble ~~*~~ The biscuit pieces themselves were probably no more than half a centimetre width and a couple of millimetres in depth, and they're of a triangular shape. When you have a litter (or rather 'if'), the mother is to be fed the same as the babies whilst they're still feeding from her - the tiny size of the biscuits was a little bit of a problem as Pig merely snorted the food down without even tasting it. This isn't particularly a problem as she was ravenous and needed copious amounts to fill her up but at the same time, it's very expensive to feed the bitch that way, thus she was supplemented with the next level of food, Royal Canin Maxi Babydog (I'd already fed her this during her last 3 weeks of pregnancy) that the puppies would be moving on to in a few weeks. It would be perfect for smaller dogs that weren't pigs. For the pups themselves it was perfect - it mashed down into a fantastic slop with just the addition of water (boiling water worked best) though it was necessary to leave it for a good 10 minutes before mashing. And then, due to its size, the kids were able to eat it sooner than if it had been a bigger kibble. ~~*~~ The all important taste-test ~~*~~ The piglets were weaned using this mash for 2 meals, cooked mince for one meal, and weetabix, puppy milk and raw egg for the other 2 din-dins so that fussy puppies with sensitive bellies weren't an issue. I have to say that this meal went down a treat right from the beginning - there were never any pups that turned their nose up. It was a salty, meaty taste when I ate it and not the nicest aftertaste but the kids thought it was lovely. Pig had eclampsia (a lack of calcium mostly due to the kids draining her) a few days after the birth and consequently getting food in to her was really hard work - bear in mind that this is a Labrador - a breed known for eating the world and not being fussy about it - at one point she was even turning down eggy bread made especially by granny smith, however, the starter kibble was enjoyed by her too. ~~*~~ The Ingredients and gumpf by Royal Canin ~~*~~ The ingredients are as follows though some of them appear to be complete gibberish: Rice, dehydrated poultry meat, animal fats, wheat gluten, maize, beet pulp, hydrolysed animal proteins, poultry proteins, minerals, fish oil, soya oil, fructo-oligo-saccharides, L-lysine, hydrolysed yeast extract (rich in mannan-oligo-saccharides), egg powder, taurine, marigold extract (rich in lutein), DL-methionine, L-carnitine. See, told you. As previously described in my oh-so-exciting review on Babydog Puppy Milk (check it out if you're off to bed soon), the 'fructo-oligo-saccharides' FOS, and beet pulp are added to help maintain a balance of healthy digestive flora and indeed, the puppies flora was lovely - I'm interpreting that as the 'presents' the puppies produced and since none had diarrhea, I guess it's true. The main ingredient is Rice - I know what that is, but apparently Royal Canin say it's in because it's a highly digestible source of starch and improves overall diet digestibility. Also aiding the little bellies, is the omega-3 addition of fish oil which maintains the integrity of the intestinal mucosa - that's nice. The clever people at RC also claim that due to the high energy density (4,200 kcal/kg) less food is needed to fill a puppies belly thus not overloading the digestive system - they were a hyper little bunch but probably no more after their kibble meal than after their weetabix mush. When we'd fed previous litters there was never a need for water to be available, which may sound weird but true. On the bag it said 'keep fresh water available at all times' - I wasn't particularly worried as they were getting bottles still at 2 ½ weeks, the occasional Pig boob and water in their food, but being a responsible granny I put in a very shallow dish of water in the whelping box and watched in amazement as the little buggers negotiated their way to it and happily lapped. My Mother was astonished that they would wake up and totter over for a drink and then return to their napping spot (bear in mind that they were only just able to waddle around). Mind you, they were a clever bunch - had them sleeping on blankets and weeing on the paper section by 3 weeks! ~~*~~ Royal Canin details ~~*~~ If you own a dog, you're a very lucky person (though probably penniless if it's a greedy Pig of a Labrador with more after school activities than most spoilt children). Perhaps you're interested in the range of food RC offer or maybe you're just a nosey get, either way you can contact them in the following variety of ways: The tinternet has the website www.royalcanin.co.uk where you can contact them and they do get back to you pretty quick. You can also ring them on 0845 300 5011 or if you're a registered breeder with them you then get assigned your own lovely local lady who actually cares when you're running very low on food and will get you a bag, stat. Or if you're odd, why not send them a sandwich in the post, you never know, you may get some good food back: Crown Pet Foods Ltd, Oak Tree Meadow, Blackworthy Road, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7PH. I was really chuffed with the results of the starter kibble, if I hadn't been such a stick in the mud, I would have used it for more meals but tradition is such a hard one to shake off. It is a complete food so there was no need for me to worry but I did and there's nothing I can do about it now. It definitely made my life easier and the kids really loved it - can't have a better reviewer than the babies themselves. Thanks for reading. Review will most definitely appear elsewhere. Me & Pig Sept 2010 Both glad it's finished.