— Whoa, what’s this — my nephew exclaimed when he saw the Kirkland bag on the kitchen floor.
— Don’t get too excited. It’s just dog food. Nothing to do with Captain Kirk — I could see the initial excitement on his Trekkie face fade quickly.
I’ve heard about the Kirkland Signature dog foods for ages. However, when I opened it, I was a little surprised (and not in a good way) to find a powdery texture inside.
That’s when I decided to do a Kirkland dog food review and see what it’s all about.
So, in the words of a certain Star Trek captain, let’s boldly go where no man has (hopefully) gone before — into the Kirkland kibble.
About Kirkland Dog Food Brand
Costco named its brand after Kirkland, Washington, where it was headquartered in 1992.
Costco is a chain of warehouse-style retail stores. It was founded in 1983 and currently has 804 warehouses worldwide (558 of which are in the US).
The chain is the fifth largest retailer in the world. You can bet that any Costco dog food will attract attention.
This is great news for us dog owners. More attention means more scrutiny — and usually higher-quality products.
Luckily, Costco is also the world’s No. 1 retailer of prime beef, rotisserie chicken, and organic foods. Meaning — if anyone needs to have food standards in place, it’s them.
Is Kirkland Dog Food Made in the USA?
Yes, it is — Costco is very upfront about the Kirkland manufacturing process.
It’s clear from their website that all the Kirkland dry pet foods are made by Diamond Pet Foods, owned by Schell & Kampeter Inc.
Their headquarters are in Meta, Missouri. They also have five manufacturing facilities across the USA: in Arkansas, California, Kansas, and South Carolina.
And what about the ingredients in Kirkland? Costco states that they mostly come from the USA. Rare ingredients, like dried chicory root, are sourced from Germany and Belgium.
The ingredients undergo various tests and toxic screening before entering the manufacturing process. This is important for any food — so your pet doesn’t get food contaminated with salmonella, for example.
Kirkland Dog Food Review
The Kirkland Signature dog food brand covers dry dog food, canned food, and dog treats. The range includes two brand lines:
- Kirkland Signature Super-Premium
- Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Grain-Free
The first line contains grains; the second one doesn’t (obviously). Check out the Kirkland Signature Super-Premium if you’d like higher energy sources, and your dog doesn’t mind gluten. However, if the pooch’s tummy or skin is sensitive to wheat, you might want to look at the second option.
The main advantage of this brand is its affordability-to-quality ratio. Many dog owners like the price, and their dogs seem to enjoy the ingredients.
Want to know more about the lines’ nutritional profiles? Let’s explore them in a more in-depth Kirkland dog food review.
Kirkland Signature Super-Premium Dog Food
Kirkland Signature Super-Premium pet food is made to provide complete nutrition at an affordable price.
There is also a Healthy Weight formula for dogs wanting to go from flab to fab.
As for wet foods, the variety pack has two recipes for all life stages:
- Chicken and Rice
- Lamb and Brown Rice
So, where do we start? Let’s look at the AAFCO guidelines compliance first.
The dry formulas in this dog food line contain 26–28% crude protein (except for the Healthy Weight formula, more on that later). AAFCO prescribes 18–30% for most dogs, so these percentages are on the higher end of that range. Meaning, your dog will get enough protein for their daily activities.
What about fat and fiber? These are also satisfactory:
- Crude fat: 12-17% (AAFCO allows 10-20%)
- Crude fiber: 3-4% (AAFCO allows up to 5%)
These values are within the range, although fat is a little on the higher end. If your dog is struggling with weight or isn’t very active, you might want to choose less fat in the dog food.
But, if you look at the Healthy Weight formula, you might think we are shamelessly promoting Costco here (we’re not). The guaranteed analysis says the recipe contains 6% crude fat and 13% crude fiber. A mistake?
No worries, we haven’t lost our reading glasses. Healthy weight formulas generally have more fiber and less fat than standard ones.
More fiber requires more energy to digest, and it slows down the digestion process. This way, calories are reduced, and digestion is improved. This might impact the taste — the food might not be as delicious.
The above numbers are quite alright — but, if your dog is prone to digestive problems, you should ease up on the fiber. Too much fiber could make your dog’s stomach play Beethoven’s 5th all through the night. With not-so-pleasant olfactory effects.
Another thing that makes the Healthy Weight formula different is the crude protein percentage — which is at 20%. Less protein is sometimes used for dogs suffering from kidney and liver diseases.
However, protein is also vital to weight loss as it builds muscles, which burn fat. So, there are lots of things to consider — does your dog have accompanying conditions or need more protein?
If your furball needs more protein, there are better options. For example, Purina One’s formula for weight management contains much more protein — 27%, to be exact.
But, before choosing any specific diet for your dog, you should always talk to your vet.
Where do the proteins in Kirkland Signature Super-Premium come from?
For any high-quality dog food, it’s not enough that the crude protein percentage is satisfactory. Sometimes, less is more — if the protein is easy to digest. That is why you need to check the protein sources.
Generally, animal protein is favored, and especially the one coming from whole meats.
In the case of Kirkland, the first ingredient is always whole meat — lamb or chicken.
This is excellent because it means that the bulk of crude protein will come from a wholesome animal source. So your dog will digest it more easily and get the nutritional value and required amino acids.
The second ingredient is chicken meal, which is another source of protein. Chicken meals are allowed in pet foods, and they complement whole meats. Besides protein, they also provide trace minerals and vitamins.
Looking at other animal sources in these formulas, we will also see chicken fat and fish meal. Chicken fat is a good source of animal fat, while fish meal provides Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
But, if your dog is allergic to poultry, fish, or lamb, you should avoid them. Luckily, these allergies are rare.
What about the grains?
Kirkland Signature Super-Premium is grain-inclusive dog food. Which is just a fancy way of saying it contains grains.
Dogs are considered omnivores. They need a small amount of grains, considerably less than they need animal sources.
Grains provide energy and contribute to heart health.
Kirkland dog food contains whole grain brown rice. Brown rice is the third ingredient — which is great because it is considered one of the healthiest grains to feed your furry friend.
Not only does whole-grain brown rice contain fiber — but it is also a stable source of energy. It won’t cause your dog’s blood sugar levels to spike.
Kirkland dog food includes other grains as well:
- Ground white rice
- Rice bran
- Cracked pearled barley
These are often used as fillers. They’re lower quality than whole-grain brown rice, but luckily, most of them are further down the ingredients list.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Grain-Free Dog Food
More dog owners are choosing a grain-free diet for their dogs. Grain-free formulas won’t harm your dog if they are sensitive or allergic to gluten.
Furthermore, since they don’t contain grains, they are likely lower in calories. This means weight management will be much easier.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain recipes come as dry and canned dog food. They are somewhat more expensive than Kirkland Super-Premium, but still a great bargain.
Nature’s Domain dry dog food is meant for all life stages. In addition to these, there is one specific Nature’s Domain Puppy formula.
Canned dog foods come in two formulas with natural flavor:
- Organic Chicken with Vegetables
- Turkey and Pea Stew
The macronutrients are the first thing you want to look at in any dog food. So, the guaranteed analysis for Kirkland Nature’s Domain dry food states the following:
- Crude protein: 22–27% (AAFCO 18-30%)
- Crude fat: 12-15% (AAFCO 10-20%)
- Crude fiber: 3-5.5% (AAFCO <5%)
The protein content is good and a bit on the higher-end of the range, so your dog should get all the muscle-building goodness they need. Canned pet food is not a substitute for high-quality dry dog foods, though.
Crude fat percentage is also acceptable, although be careful if your pooch is a little on the heavy side.
As for the fiber, two formulas overstep the AAFCO guidelines by 0.5%. Although it’s not a big deal (and some weight loss formulas have double the allowed fiber), it’s still good to choose less fiber if your dog has digestive problems. Too much fiber can irritate your dog’s stomach.
Where does the protein come from?
Most Kirkland Nature’s Domain recipes have a meat meal as their first ingredient. The main protein sources include a salmon meal, beef meal, and turkey meal.
We like that the meals are specified. So, for example, with the salmon meal, you know that your dog will be getting Omega-3s besides protein.
But, the meals themselves are not exactly protein powerhouses. They make good complements to whole meats, but it’s sort of bad that they are the main protein source. Especially when the second ingredient is a carb — like in Kirkland’s case.
Still, other formulas in this line remedy this big time with fresh chicken as their first ingredient. Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken recipe even uses organic chicken as the main protein source.
The Puppy formula is the only one that combines real chicken with chicken meal as the second ingredient.
The whole-meats recipes seem like a much better option, protein-wise.
To be fair, chicken meals are sometimes used as the first ingredient for dogs suffering from certain kidney conditions. Yet, it seems strange that most formulas in this line are like that.
Which grains substitutes are used?
The grain-free range doesn’t mean the food is free of carbs.
We are glad that Kirkland Nature’s Domain lists sweet potato as the main source of carbohydrates. Sweet potato is easy to digest and will give your dog fiber and nutrients.
The formulas also have regular potatoes and peas.
Peas are a bit tricky. They are a solid source of fiber and a fine substitute for grains. Still, the pea protein will raise the overall protein count of dog foods.
This means that you may think a dog food has 27% of crude protein (and the label confirms it), but there is less animal protein that dogs can easily digest. It’s like buying a tomato sauce, only to discover that it’s been mixed with ketchup.
Overall, the protein count in Kirkland is good, so this shouldn’t worry you too much. But pay attention to any food that lists several pea forms among the first ingredients — like pea starch, pea flour, pea protein, peas, etc. This could be a sign of low-quality dog food.
What about DCM?
Grain-free recipes may be healthier in some regard, but they have their challenges. I believe every pet owner in the US remembers the FDA controversy a few years ago.
In 2019, FDA examined the case of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. This heart disease is supposedly caused by the lack of grains and subsequent decrease in taurine. After going back to grain-inclusive diets, many sick dogs recovered from DCM.
Better dog foods nowadays add taurine to their products to remedy this.
We were surprised that Kirkland Nature’s Domain dog food doesn’t have taurine in any of its formulas. This is a potential issue since the results from the FDA are inconclusive. Still, we recommend you talk to the vet before choosing Kirkland’s Nature’s Domain options.
Other Notable Ingredients in Kirkland Signature Range
There are many healthy ingredients in Kirkland Signature dog food.
For starters, the Super-Premium formulas have chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate. You’ve probably heard of these and that they are good for joint health.
Here’s how they work: both chondroitin and glucosamine are like the small building blocks of cartilage. They preserve and build collagen, which we need for healthy joints.
Sadly, body collagen naturally takes a dive as we age, both in humans and dogs. And so we start developing creaky, painful joints since there isn’t enough collagen to keep them squeaky clean.
Chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate are thought to, at the very least, slow down this process by preserving collagen and cartilage. So introducing them to your dog’s diet might keep your furry friend jumping around more.
You’d also want to take a look at the Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids, both 6s and 3s, are important for a dog’s heart, brain development, healthy skin, and shiny coat.
But the ratio between Omega-6s and Omega-3s is often skewed in favor of Omega-6 fatty acids. They are everywhere, especially in fats and oils.
Omega-3s are a little harder to obtain. Flaxseed and fish are rich in these fatty acids.
Luckily, all the Kirkland dog food formulas contain salmon oil, flaxseed, salmon meal, and fish meal. These are all great sources of Omega-3s, so your dog will be getting the fatty acids they need.
Adding to that, the formulas also contain loads of vitamins and minerals.
Most of these, like the vitamin E supplement, are also antioxidants. So think of them as a sort of 2-in-1: they will strengthen the dog’s immunity and protect cells from damage.
Finally, Kirkland has also thought of dogs’ digestion. Adding to fiber, the formulas (especially the Nature’s Domain line) also have live probiotics and dried chicory root.
These introduce healthy bacteria to the gut. A healthy gut microbiome works its magic, and — voila! — your dog’s digestive system purrs like a kitten after they’ve eaten an entire bowl of Orijen. Meaning, the dog will digest and use all the nutrients (the cat might deny this).
Is Kirkland a Good Dog Food?
There are a few ingredients in Kirkland dog food you should be aware of.
The first and most important thing to pay attention to is the calcium-phosphorus ratio. Several recipes in Kirkland dog food contain too much calcium and way too much phosphorus (some adult formulas have twice the amount of allowed phosphorus).
The excess Ca and P are ok for some dogs, like puppies and pregnant dogs. But if your dog has kidney problems, you want to avoid feeding them these.
Prolonged intake of inadequate Ca and P could even cause issues with the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Costco is, however, open about the calcium and phosphorus content — you can check the exact amounts on their website.
Secondly, many formulas in this range contain brewers’ dried yeast. Brewers’ yeast is commonly used for beer production. It is an exceptional source of vitamin B and tastes great to dogs and cats.
But, in some dogs, the brewers’ dried yeast can cause bloating, constipation, and digestive issues. Bloating is especially bad, as it can lead to stomach torsion.
Digestive problems can be exacerbated by dried beet pulp, also present in Kirkland dog food. The dried beet pulp is extremely fibrous, so the high fiber intake could cause digestive flare-ups.
If your canine has a sensitive stomach, it might be best to talk to your vet first about any food with high fiber content.
Kirkland Dog Food Reviews
In recent years, Kirkland dog food reviews have been mixed.
For a long time, Kirkland Signature was a well-known and well-loved brand. The pet owners raved about how their dogs love the food. It was one of the easiest dog foods to switch to.
And it was also very easy on the wallet, with great value for money.
But if you browse recent online comments on Costco products pages, you can spot two issues.
The first one is the constant price increase. Over the last year or so, Kirkland’s dry dog food price increased by 50-70%. The commenters mention that it is still a reasonable price, but they don’t see what would justify such a fast and steep increase.
The second issue concerns the quality of the food itself. Many commenters have been wondering if the Kirkland recipes have changed. They mention that the food is more powdery, which causes cough in some dogs.
Additionally, if you check the 2020 lawsuit comments section, there are dozens of complaints from dog owners whose dogs developed allergic reactions to Kirkland’s grain-free formulas.
All of these imply a certain drop in the quality of the ingredients. So, if you’re planning on switching to Costco Kirkland dog food, it might be good to start slow. Especially if you are considering Kirkland Nature’s Domain.
Kirkland Dog Food Recalls
So far, there have been two recalls of Kirkland dog food.
Diamond Pet Foods issued a voluntary recall of several Kirkland dog food products because of the possible salmonella contamination (CDC).
Kirkland was a part of the massive recall of dog and cat foods because of the possible melamine contamination (FDA). Many brands had to recall their products.
Both of these recalls have been a part of a larger problem with manufacturers. Since then, Costco seems to have tightened the ingredients’ quality standards.
In November 2020, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Costco. The suit claimed that Kirkland’s grain-free dog food is falsely advertised because it contains grains. Many dog owners claimed that their dogs developed allergic reactions to the foods in question.
In October 2021, this class action was settled, and Diamond Pet Foods agreed to issue a refund for some of their products, including Kirkland dog foods.
Kirkland dog food is a well-known and popular brand, loved by many.
The dog food products in this range are pretty affordable and offer high-quality ingredients.
For the most part, the food contains everything the dog needs. However, there are two things you should consider.
The calcium-phosphorus ratio is a bit off in grain-inclusive formulas, which might make them dangerous for dogs with kidney issues.
Secondly, grain-free options could be better.
For one, they don’t contain taurine, which is pretty standard nowadays.
More importantly, it’s uncertain whether they are free of grains at all. This makes Kirkland dog food potentially unsafe. If your canine is allergic to grains or wheat, it might be best to avoid it for now.
We hope these problems will be addressed soon so we can continue enjoying the value Kirkland offers.
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