For the longest time, I didn’t pay attention to what food my dogs ate. Part of this was because I lived with my parents and was a child. They took care of buying everyone’s food, the dogs’ included. But once I was a teenager and iPod Touch devices became popular among my peer group, I started being able to look things up on my own whenever I had WiFi. (Oh, how times have changed in just ten years! Things are much more instant even now.)
Naturally, I researched things about my two German shepherds. When my dog Bella was a puppy and I took her to PetCo and she scooted her butt on the grass afterward, I looked up that strange behavior as soon as I got home.
I also started worrying about my dogs’ food. What if the food they were eating wasn’t safe? What if there was a better food out there for them?
One day, a post popped up on my iPod Touch when I was scrolling through Facebook. “Dog Dies from Pedigree Dog Food,” it said. (If I had done a little more Internet digging, I would’ve found that this claim couldn’t be proven, and Pedigree says it adheres to strict safety standards. But there have been multiple instances of dogs getting sick after eating Pedigree dry dog food and there have been various voluntary recalls.)
Back to the story: I looked at the bag of Pedigree dog food my mom had just brought home from Costco. “Mom,” I said. “We have to return that.”
She looked at the article. “That’s so sad,” she said, and the next day we drove back to Costco to return the dog food that Clancy and Bella had been eating without incident for years.
We couldn’t risk something happening to our furry family members. The thing was, we were an on-a-budget family and Pedigree was the cheapest food. Buying food at a pet store was out of the question: it came in smaller bags and cost more. With two dogs, that method would’ve chewed our wallet to bits in a month.
Costco is famous for selling massive amounts of everything for a lower price than what you’d get it for elsewhere. That’s when we decided to try their Kirkland dog food.
Coming in 40-pound bags, the Kirkland food cost more than Pedigree, which was actually a good sign — cheaper usually means, well, cheaper. Less high-quality. But the Kirkland food was still much less expensive than Taste of the Wild (which we did end up giving to Bella years later, when she approached her elderly years).
Because we trusted the Kirkland brand, we figured the food was safe.
We used it for the rest of Clancy’s life and most of Bella’s. Now that my husband and I have Eira, we’ve used the Kirkland dog food for her, too.
Bella a year before she passed away of bladder cancer. She stayed healthy and energetic almost until the very end.
But the question is this: is Kirkland food safe for dogs? Is it really any safer than Pedigree or the other low-cost brands out there?
- Comparing recalls
- Kirkland Super Premium Adult Dog Food, Chicken, Vegetable, and Rice Formula
- Kirkland Signature Lamb, Rice, and Vegetable Formula (Eira’s Choice!)
- Kirkland Super Premium Small Breed Dog Food
- Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Puppy Food
- Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Organic Dog Food
When you are researching any dog food for your pet, it’s a good idea to look up the food’s past recalls. Most dog foods have been recalled at one point or another — and if you think about it, human food gets recalled, too. Like the Great Lettuce Recall of 2018, when mass amounts of healthy romaine, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce sent to grocery stores were contaminated with E. coli. Or the Kirkland brand berries that were recalled in 2019 due to Hepatitis A contamination. I’ve been using the Costco three-berry blend for years, and I also eat lettuce. I wasn’t personally affected by either recall, but I made sure to wait until the FDA gave the all-clear signal on both types of products before buying again.
All this to say that just because there’s a recall, that doesn’t mean a dog food is permanently unsafe for your dog.
Let’s compare two recalls: the Pedigree recall of 2014/2015 and the Kirkland dog food recall of 2012.
The Pedigree recall
Pedigree’s recall was based on the presence of fibers, which worried pet-parents described as metal wires or plastic pieces poking out of kibble and causing dogs to get sick or refuse to eat their food as usual. Angry pet owners posted photos of the clearish wires sticking out of kibble and told stories of their dogs vomiting, having diarrhea, or even bloody stool.
They voiced enough outrage and concern that Pedigree did some research into their own dog food and treats to find out if there really was wire in their food.
Turns out, it was “only” pig hair, which Pedigree chirped was because “Pedigree Marrobone [and other foods] are manufactured using meat and bone meal, it’s possible for natural fibers such as pig hair to appear in the finished product. While consumers may not have noticed these natural fibers when feeding their dog, we can assure them that the treats are safe for dogs to enjoy.”
Hmm. If you’ve ever pet a pig, you know its “fur” or “hair” is bristly and hard and rough. In fact, some types of pig bristles are used in hair brushes. That’s how strong they are. They can most definitely irritate, if not outright scratch or cut, a dog’s intestines when moving through the digestive tract, which explains why so many dogs felt sick after eating Pedigree’s pig-bristle-infused dog food.
Nobody wants such foreign objects to make their way into their dogs’ food. Pedigree’s flippant response isn’t very comforting. They don’t appear concerned enough to fix the problem and seem to have ended the recall shortly after they released their statement.
It’s disconcerting to know that whatever process Pedigree uses to manufacture its dry dog food is the sort that allows animal hairs into the food. What, exactly, is your dog eating when she eats Pedigree dry dog food?
Now let’s look at Kirkland’s 2012 recall.
The Kirkland recall
Kirkland dog food: is it worth it?
Kirkland’s latest recall was in 2012 and it hasn’t issued a recall, voluntary or involuntary, since. Unlike the Pedigree recall, Kirkland’s wasn’t because of wiry fibers or hairs in its dog food. Instead, it was because of a possible salmonella contamination in the dry dog food. They pinned it down to dog food sold between certain 2012 and 2013 dates and in 16 US states, plus Canada and Puerto Rico.
Salmonella isn’t generally life-threatening, but it’s not a fun illness either. One way contamination occurs is when feces comes in contact with food — gross, right? It doesn’t mean that your Kirkland dog food was rubbed in poop, though. In the butchering process for the meat that goes into dog food, it’s possible for an animal to have been contaminated before butchering, or for trace amounts of feces to get into food. It generally should get cooked out of the food, but not always. In addition, raw eggs can carry salmonella, as can raw meat, which is why we’re all advised not to eat those things. Salmonella can also grow in hot, muggy conditions on plants — like lettuce.
There are tons of ways for salmonella to sneak into foods. It’s almost a miracle we don’t get more outbreaks, but facilities are typically extremely clean and safe, keeping salmonella at bay. If your dog does get sick after eating any type of dog food, seek veterinary assistance and then report the illness to the dog food’s distributor. They should have a process that you can go through with them to find out if the food is contaminated, and if so, they will (or should, anyway) recall it.
Salmonella in dogs can be present without symptoms and your dog can be a carrier (so make sure to keep all the poop picked up and the yard clean, and wash your hands after doing those tasks!). If your dog presents the following symptoms after eating dog food, that’s when you need to find out if it’s salmonella:
- Fever (see our article about the best dog thermometer to help you determine this symptom)
- Bloody stool
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
The most critical thing to do is keep your dog hydrated through the loss of fluids salmonella can induce. She might need an IV for this, as well as further treatment for the infection.
Since 2012, Kirkland has not had a salmonella recall. Eira’s been eating it her entire life, and she’s healthy and happy and loves her food.
Look at the way she’s licking her lips at the sight of her almost-empty dog food (time for another Costco run or Amazon order!)
The first three ingredients of any dog food can also help you figure out if it’s a healthy food for your dog.
In a typical Pedigree adult dry dog food, the first three ingredients are: ground whole grain corn, meat and bone meal (since there is no specific meat source, this meat could be from literally any animal or multiple animals), and corn gluten meal.
The first three ingredients of Eira’s Kirkland dog food, pictured above, are: lamb, lamb meal, and whole grain brown rice.
You tell me which one is better for your dog. Kirkland’s first ingredient is a real, identified meat; Pedigree’s is corn.
Corn is cheap, and that’s how Pedigree keeps their dog food costs down: it’s mostly corn, which isn’t an ideal source of nutrition for your dog on its own. Kirkland food, with higher quality ingredients, is more expensive, but it’s still affordable and comes in massive bags that keep Eira fed for two months at a time. When Bella and Clancy ate Kirkland dog food, we typically bought a bag a month since they were both eating out of it.
So, we love Kirkland dog food. And you don’t have to be a Costco member to buy it for your pup!
You can buy their dog food on Amazon, too.
Kirkland Super Premium Adult Dog Food, Chicken, Vegetable, and Rice Formula
This one features chicken as its main ingredient — an excellent meat source for your dog! And vegetables are always fantastic for your dog’s overall health, too, just like they are for humans.
Kirkland Signature Lamb, Rice, and Vegetable Formula (Eira’s Choice!)
This is the dog food Eira’s been eating almost her entire life, and she loves it. She’s a happy, bouncy, super-energetic dog who rarely gets sick. Unlike a dog food filled with pig bristles, your dog WILL enjoy this food.
Kirkland Super Premium Small Breed Dog Food
This one contains fresh chicken, vegetables, and rice, and is specially formulated for small dog breeds.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Puppy Food
Kirkland’s Nature’s Domain line is an excellent choice for puppies or dogs with special dietary needs. Eira enjoyed this food during her first six months of life.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Organic Dog Food
Looking for an environmentally-friendly, super-healthy dog food? Try Kirkland’s Nature’s Domain Organic Dog Food.
Kirkland is safe for dogs, and not only that, it’s an excellent dog food choice based on its ingredients lists.
Eira loves to howl just before dinnertime with her Kirkland dog food!