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Costco Dog Food for Great Danes: An Owner’s Guide

Costco’s Kirkland brand is well-known for providing great value, but is their food good for Great Danes? As a giant breed, Great Danes have very specific food requirements to ensure healthy development. In this post, I’ll be covering the ins and outs of this topic to determine if Costco dog food is a good fit for Great Danes.

The Costco dog food recommended for Great Danes is the Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Dog Food. It is the only one that meets all of the requirements for caloric density, micro and macronutrients, and ingredient quality for a Great Dane.

Out of the 9 foods evaluated in the list, these were the only two that met my specific requirements to ensure healthy development for Great Danes. To see how and why I arrived at these conclusions, please make sure to take a look at my food evaluation criteria described below.

The Research

To answer this important question of whether or not Costco’s Kirkland dog food is good for Great Danes, I used a very specific set of criteria.

This is the same set of criteria what I would use to evaluate any dog food for Great Danes, not just Costco’s food.

The food evaluation criteria include:

With that in mind, here is the full list of all of the Costco Kirkland brand dog foods that were evaluated.

  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea Dog Food (grain-free)
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea Dog Food (grain-free)
  • Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable Dog Food
  • Kirkland Signature Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Dog Food

Note: This includes all Kirkland-branded dog foods, except those made specifically for small breeds.

Micronutrient profile

Great Danes are prone to a number of growth-related diseases such as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD), Panosteitis, and bowed legs to name a few.

One of the most important factors to consider in evaluating prospective foods will be their amounts of calcium and phosphorus due to the role that these micronutrients play in the development of bone and other tissues.

To start with, the ideal amount of calcium is between 1% to 1.5%. Going below one percent provides insufficient amounts of the nutrient, while going above it could lead to the previously mentioned growth diseases.

The amount of phosphorus is calculated as a ratio to that of calcium, in that there should be 1-1.5 times as much as calcium as phosphorus. The chart below showcases a few of these sample calculations to give you an idea of the acceptable ranges.

CalciumPhosphorus
1%0.67% – 1.0%
1.25%0.83% – 1.25%
1.5%1% – 1.5%
Ideal micronutrient ratios.

I then reviewed the Guaranteed Analysis section of each food’s listing from Costco’s website to find these values.

FoodCalciumPhosphorus
Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato*not listed*not listed
Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg0.9%0.7%
Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable*not listed*not listed
Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea*not listed*not listed
Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato*not listed*not listed
Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable1.2%1%
Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea1.2%1%
Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable*not listed*not listed
Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable1%0.8%
Values obtained from Costco’s website.

As you can see, 5 of the 9 Kirkland dog food blends do not provide values in their guaranteed analysis section for the amount of calcium and phosphorus. To be clear, this does not guarantee that these foods do not contain the appropriate amounts of these micronutrients.

However, the fact that they either don’t test for them or have intentionally not listed them is concerning. The ratios of these two elements is critically important to ensure safe and healthy development, and is best not being left to chance.

Of the four foods that did list their amounts, only three met the desired guidelines.

  • Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable
  • Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea
  • Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable

While “Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg” has the correct proportions of the two, it is too low to be considered acceptable.

Caloric Density

Weight management is one of the most important aspects of feeding a Great Dane. Feed them too little during their high-growth puppy phase and you’ll limit their development.

However, feeding them too much can lead to equally dangerous results. Overfeeding could result in the development of growth-related diseases and increase the wear and tear on their joints.

One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is by feeding your Great Dane a calorie-moderate food. The best range seems to be 350 – 400 calories per cup of dog food.

This ensures that your Great Dane is able to eat a reasonable volume of food to feel full, while still getting the appropriate nutrients.

By comparison, your dog would need to eat a much smaller volume of food for formulas that have more calories per dense. This not only leaves them less full and increases their chances of eating things not good for them, but also increases the likelihood of overeating.

Below is a breakdown of the calories per cup for each of Kirkland’s foods. Because every food name starts with “Kirkland Signature”, I’ve removed this portion from each name for ease of reading.

FoodCalories / Cup
Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato336
Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg330
Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable275
Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea336
Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato336
Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable390
Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea340
Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable373
Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable393
Values obtained from Costco’s website.

Unlike many other dog food blends (especially for puppies), none of the Costco dog foods had extremely high calorie counts. This is a positive!

However, some of the foods found did have surprisingly low calories. In a strict sense, those that fell within the desired range were:

  • Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable
  • Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable
  • Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable

While my general guideline is 350 – 400 calories per cup, there is a little wiggle room on the low end if things are close. Unless weight loss is the main goal, your Great Dane should be fed a food that takes a reasonable amount of food volume to get the necessary calories.

Macronutrient profile

After micronutrients and caloric density, the next thing that I look to when evaluating a prospective dog food for Great Danes is their macronutrient profile. While some believe that a focus on macros is an outdated perspective, I still see it as a useful precautionary approach to feeding Great Danes.

Specifically controlling their protein ensures that their body doesn’t try to develop too quickly, while minding fat levels ensures that they have enough for hormone production while not too much to avoid excess weight gain.

An ideal dog food blend will meet the following macronutrient profile:

  • Protein: 22% – 26%
  • Fat: 12% – 20%
FoodProteinFat
Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato2414
Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg2712
Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable206
Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea2212
Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato2414
Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable2817
Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea2715
Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable2314
Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable2614
Values obtained from Costco’s website.

Out of the nine Kirkland options, the five below met the criteria that I look for in terms of macronutrients.

  • Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato
  • Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea
  • Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato
  • Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable
  • Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable

Notably, most of these were removed from the list for having protein that was too high. However, compared other foods, these aren’t what I’d call egregious overages. Most have only 1-2% more than the ideal range, so this isn’t too bad.

Only one blend (Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable) had fat levels that were out of the desired range.

Quality of Ingredients

Quality, quality, quality! We all know that quality matters, and there’s no reason that this shouldn’t be applied to our Great Dane’s food as well.

While the dog food industry is full of bad actors trying to make a few extra bucks but using poor ingredients, this is one area where I did not feel Costco’s Kirkland branded dog food fell short.

From the use of quality wholesome ingredients, multiple proteins, and quality fat sources, I’m generally impressed by the quality of Costco’s dog food.

Naturally, there are a few areas for improvement, but overall, they seemed to focus on using quality ingredients. Having been a consumer of other Kirkland brand products for decades myself, this was exactly in line with my expectations.

The Grain-Free Decision

One thing that I would like to point out is that two of the Kirkland blends are grain-free blends. While grain-free was initially believed to provide health benefits, more recent studies by the FDA have found that it leads to higher occurrence rates of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Unless your veterinarian has specifically recommended the use of a grain-free diet to address a medical condition, then I would not recommend feeding these types of foods to your Great Dane.

The two grain-free Kirkland formulas included:

  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea Dog Food (grain-free) 30 lb
  • Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea Dog Food (grain-free) 20 lb

As general guidance, I would not consider either of these options for a healthy Great Dane based on the fact that they are grain-free.

Decision Summary

Putting it all together, let’s see where each of the Kirkland dog food blends excels and falls short when being compared across all of the Great Dane food criteria.

FoodMicrosCaloriesMacrosIngredients
Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato
Mature Formula Chicken, Rice and Egg
Healthy Weight Formula Chicken & Vegetable
Nature’s Domain Organic Chicken & Pea
Nature’s Domain Turkey Meal and Sweet Potato
Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable
Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea
Adult Formula Lamb, Rice and Vegetable
Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable
Costco dog food evaluation summary.

Now that all of the information is nicely combined, you can see that the only Kirkland dog food that quite literally checks every box is the “Adult Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable”.

This is not to say that any of these foods are bad in any sense. Just that when it comes to meeting the needs of a Great Dane, they aren’t quite up to par. This is actually true of many dog foods, and not just those found at Costco.

While the “Puppy Formula Chicken, Rice and Vegetable” was extremely close, it missed out on full marks due to having slightly elevated protein levels. If you were HAD to get a puppy-blend dog food from Costco, then then would be your best option. However, I’ve got a list of better options in my article on puppy foods here if you’re interested.

However, with availability of fantastic online retailers like Chewy that ship the food right to your front door at a great price, there’s no reason you need to buy your dog food from Costco.

To be clear, I love Costco! I just don’t think they’re the best option for my Great Dane’s dog food.

Of course, the logical next question then is what is my top recommended dog food!

My Pick
Wellness Large Breed Dog Food, Chicken & Rice

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Dog Food, Large Breed Health Recipe, is healthy, natural dog food for large breed dogs made with carefully chosen, authentic ingredients for everyday health and provides an optimal balance of nutrient-rich whole foods.

Buy from Amazon.com Buy from Chewy.com

For all of the reasons that I covered above and many more, Wellness Large Breed is my number one recommended food for Great Danes. However, it’s far from the only good food out there!

To see my full list, make sure to take a look at my article on the best food for Great Danes.

Who Makes Kirkland Dog Food?

While Costco itself is the distributor of its Kirkland branded items, it’s worth pointing out that they are not actually the manufacturer of these goods. They contract with other brands who specialize in their respective industries, and then sell these goods white-labeled under the Costco Kirkland brand.

This is actually a great thing for consumers because it means that Costco isn’t trying to become an expert in hundreds of different industries. They simply work with an existing leader to capture their knowledge and know-how, and pass that on to their consumers.

The Kirkland branded dog food is actually manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. They are also responsible for producing Taste of the Wild, All Diamond, Chicken Soup, and many others.

1 thought on “Costco Dog Food for Great Danes: An Owner’s Guide”

  1. I did email to DPF Customer service about the calcium in the Kirkland Signature Lamb, Rice & Vegetables Formula that is not listed. The response below is what came back. Very helpful and quick on emails in case anyone reaches out, which was nice . I did not ask why it was not on the bag like other Kirkland varieties.

    1.7%, as fed

    Reply

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