Today, we’ll be providing a comprehensive Gentle Giants dog food review, offering fresh insights to help you make an informed decision when choosing food for your Great Dane or other giant breed dog. We are experts in large and giant breed dogs, and share science-backed information!
This review is part of our ongoing series on dry dog food.
Here are some things I will cover in our Gentle Giants review:
- Where Gentle Giants dog food is manufactured
- If Gentle Giants food will make your dog live longer
- The carbohydrate content of Gentle Giants dog food
- Whether or not Gentle Giants can be fed to puppies
- Our opinion on the quality of this pet food brand
- Science and research behind dog nutrition
Gentle Giant Dog Food Ingredient Analysis
Here is a list of the ingredients in Gentle Giants’ chicken dog food formula. While they have other formulas, they are all comparable. For this review, chicken and rice will be used as an example.
Chicken Meal, Pearled Barley, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Poultry Flavor, Whole Flaxseeds, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Yeast, Dried Kelp Meal, Dried Egg Product, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach, New Zealand Green Mussel, Pumpkin, Cranberries, Blueberries, Apples, Chicory, Ascorbic Acid (Source Of Vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Methionine Complex, Copper Sulfate, Copper Lysine Complex, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Methionine Complex, Beta Carotene, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Carbonate, Cobalt Glucoheptonate, Mixed Tocopherols And Rosemary Extract
3,323 kcal/kg, 358 kcal/cupChewy.com
Author’s Note: It’s important to note that we are not Veterinary Nutritionists, so our assessment is limited to a cursory examination, and we cannot provide a definitive judgment on commercial dog food recipes or the specific ingredients in this formula.
Chicken meal is a quality first ingredient, indicating that a low-moisture and nutrient-dense meat meal is used in the formulation. A meat meal is essentially flesh and skin that has been rendered so that the water and fat are gone. It is an incredibly nutritious ingredient that may even reduce the risk of bloat!
The addition of fruits and vegetables in Gentle Giants is a marketing gimmick; the amounts of each of these would be so low that they essentially amount to fairy dust. Each one is listed after salt in the ingredients, which means they make up less than 1% of the final formula.
Green Lipped Mussel has some promising indications for joint health, but as with fruits and vegetables in this formula, there is very little of this product in the final food. It is unlikely to have any benefit at all.
According to Gentle Giants, this food is classified as a “natural formula” designed to offer balanced nutrition for dogs of all ages and sizes.
Carb Content of Gentle Giants Dog Food
It does appear to be high in starchy ingredients such as barley, brown rice, oatmeal, and peas, especially compared to many other dog foods and dry food recipes.
Brown rice is an excellent example of a typical healthy grain in Gentle Giant Dog food. Brown Rice may contain higher levels of arsenic than white rice, so brown rice must be included thoughtfully and only from companies that do a lot of product lab testing during and after production. It is unclear what their testing processes are.
Gentle Giants chicken dog food contains whole peas in the first five ingredients. This is a major red flag, as it correlates with an increased risk of the dog developing heart disease.
After a quick calculation using the Dog Bone Market carb calculator, I learned that Gentle Giants is 53% carbs.
This puts Gentle Giants dog food at a much higher carb content than Purina One Large Breed Chicken and Rice, which lands at 44% carbs, and higher than Purina Dog Chow Chicken which lands at 51% carbs.
This means that the Gentle Giants formula has LESS meat than other more established and known pet food brands.
It is priced at $44 U.S.D. for 30 pounds.
Author’s note: Purina Puppy/Dog Chow is $28 for 40 lbs. It’s a less expensive food by far, yet, has a lower carbohydrate content than Gentle Giants.
Dog Chow also has an insane amount of research (including lifetime feeding trials) behind the formulation. If you would not feed Purina Dog Chow to your pet, you should begin to recognize how Gentle Giants is unquestionably the lower quality option between the two.
Where is Gentle Giants Dog Food Manufactured
As of this update (2024), it is believed that Gentle Giants Pet foods are manufactured by Consumers Supply Distribution in Sioux City, Iowa. It is made in the U.S.A.
While marketing would like to lead consumers to believe otherwise, Gentle Giant pet food is a classic example of a mass-manufactured brand coming from a co-packing factory that is responsible for hundreds of other labels, formulas, and products.
Because it is unclear where Gentle Giants Dog food is made, I did a deep dive for this blog post!
Gentle Giants has a video on their website showing how their food is manufactured.
It starts with sweeping views of a factory, where a computer-generated version of their logo appears on the signage and distribution trucks. This would be believable to the untrained eye, but once you realize what is happening, it is clear that they are attempting to white-label the factory.
The video takes us inside the facility where this dog food is made, and we can see employees wearing “Consumers Supply” polo shirts.
Gentle Giants do NOT manufacture their food; they contract it out. While this is an acceptable albeit sub-standard practice (it’s better to choose pet foods coming from owned manufacturing facilities with strict quality control and dedication to the safety and bioavailability of the final product), it’s so much worse that they attempt to lie about it!
Consumers Supply manufactures and distributes several products that service the pet, wildlife, and livestock industries including food, minerals, salts, bird seed, and even rope and twine. They are commissioned by companies to make and distribute products and have no affiliation otherwise with the mission or branding of the product being sold.
Is Gentle Giants dog food made in China?
No, it is made in the U.S. However, most, if not all dog food companies (even ‘natural’ ones) source vitamins and minerals from other countries (including China).
Does Gentle Giants Dog Food Contain Grains
Yes, Gentle Giants dog food contains grains (barley, brown rice, oatmeal). If you want more information about grains vs. grain-free, read our blog post here.
Many people believe that their dog has grain allergies, however, this condition is exceedingly rare. Grains provide important nutrients and energy that dogs need to thrive.
Unfortunately, many grain-free dry dog foods have been associated with a preventable and deadly form of heart disease. We do not recommend feeding grain-free dry diets to dogs.
Is Gentle Giants dog food holistic?
The term ‘holistic’ is a marketing term that is not regulated. It’s made up!
Anybody can claim that the food they make and sell is “holistic”. It’s a catchy term that encourages well-meaning pet parents to make a purchase.
Holistic should imply that a food is formulated to treat the “whole body”.
Any good science-backed food would thus, actually be holistic. Comprehensive veterinary care including prevention is thus, holistic.
Gentle Giants dog food does claim to be “holistic”. Take that with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean anything.
Here is a great article that outlines common food marketing terms: https://www.purina.com/articles/dog/nutrition/natural-vs-holistic-dog-food
Can Gentle Giants Be Fed to Puppies?
Gentle Giants is an “All Life Stages” food, meaning that it’s formulated for puppies and adults.
All Life Stages foods are essentially puppy foods. This can be okay in some cases, but in others, it’s simply a way for companies to minimize the need for different formulations, bags, and feeding trials.
When evaluating whether a food is appropriate for a large or giant breed puppy, it is critical to assess the calcium and phosphorus levels.
An appropriate food for a big puppy will have 1.2% or less calcium, a CA/PH ratio of as close to 1:1 as possible, and 3.5g or less calcium per 1000 kCal. It will also have the AAFCO large breed growth statement.
Ideally, the food will have also undergone feeding trials, extensive lab testing, and research, proving the availability of other important bone-growth nutrients such as Vitamin D, zinc, and phosphorus. From what we can tell, Gentle Giant’s food has not been subjected to rigorous and thorough testing.
Gentle Giants Chicken and Rice does have the AAFCO Large Breed Growth statement, indicating that the calcium level is expected to be 1.8% or less.
However, it is impossible to find calcium and phosphorus levels for this food. Without this information published and easy to find, we cannot verify that the food is 1.2% or less (the value recommended for giant breed puppies in particular). Additionally, we can not calculate how much calcium is in 1000 kCal of Gentle Giants puppy food.
As above, the food is co-packed in a massive manufacturing facility that makes many other brands and labels. This facility is probably responsible for the nutritional formulation as well, yet there is no indication of the qualifications of the individuals overseeing this process.
Tread cautiously when choosing to feed this food to a large or giant breed dog under the age of 2.
Incorrect nutritional values in puppyhood can increase the risk of dysplasia, bone damage, painful growth disorders, and even osteosarcoma bone cancer or wobblers disease!
Behind the Gentle Giants Food Brand
Our Gentle Giants dog food review would be incomplete without some information about what goes on behind the brand.
Not only does this food come with bold, in-your-face marketing geared toward pet owners with gentle giants, but it also has some interesting stories behind it. Read on, friends.
The Gentle Giants Rescue
Burt Ward (the owner of this brand) has been rescuing dogs with his wife in California for decades.
This unusual rescue makes wild claims about the longevity of the dogs (20+ years in some cases) living on their “all-natural dog food“, and says they have rescued over 14,000 pets.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, they have no animals available for adoption.
Many of the ‘available’ breeds they offer via this rescue are unusual and rare, including Staghounds, Xolo, “woodles”, and Saluki. They have had many, many litters of puppies, too.
Many people, including us, believe that this ‘rescue’ operation is nothing more than a glorified puppy mill.
They claim that 30-40 dogs live with them in “peace and harmony” on their property and that all are seniors exceeding their normal lifespan because of their “world-class food and training program”.
There are many verifiable reports of neglect, poor living conditions, and uncontrolled dogs breeding at will in the unsupervised ‘Gentle Giants’ pack.
For more information on the controversy surrounding Burt Ward’s dog rescue, read here: http://dogaddicts.com/smf/index.php?topic=4124.0;imode
Burt Ward, Robin from Batman
People seem to associate ‘celebrity’ with ‘trustworthy’.
Burt Ward played Robin in the 1960s Batman TV series.
That doesn’t make him a nutrition expert, last we checked…
Is Gentle Giants Dog Food Good?
We don’t stand behind any dry dog food that doesn’t stand with science. It’s that simple. The people behind Gentle Giants dog food do not participate in research, studies, or food trials.
The only “proof” they have of the efficacy and safety of their food is the claims made that their pack of “rescue” dogs are all over the age of 10.
A cursory glance at dog food reviews of this product indicates that some people have had no trouble feeding this food and swear by it while others experienced blood in the urine, inflammation, loose stools, and itching.
Has Gentle Giants Food Ever Been Recalled?
As of this writing, it appears that Gentle Giants food has never been recalled.
We see this as a red flag. Why?
A company that will recall its food is a company that wants to control the quality and the consistency, even if the problem that led to the recall is minor.
Boutique Dog Foods vs. Science
Boutique ‘feel good’ dog foods, including Gentle Giants, rely on careful marketing to sell the brand.
They tend to use buzzwords such as “human grade”, “all-natural”, “no recalls”, “super-premium”, or “holistic”. This can lead consumers to feel that they are purchasing something healthier for their pet (even if no actual health benefits have been proven by any legitimate science).
Even the word “farm-raised chicken” is meant to evoke a certain feeling or emotion about the food. All chickens are raised on farms!
Common ’boutique’ companies that you may have heard of or seen include Fromm, Orijen, 4Health, Halo, Solid Gold, Nulo, Nutro, Zignature, The Farmer’s Dog, Muenster, and Life’s Abundance.
What’s interesting about boutique dog food is that, despite the health claims they make, there is very little science going into the food itself.
Many people are shocked to learn that very few (if any) boutique food companies have a legitimate nutritionist formulating their foods. In many cases, the person making the recipe is even less qualified than a veterinarian.
For example, Fromm (who relies on the ‘ family-owned’ mantra to sell food) is formulated by a chemical engineer.
Victor Foods are formulated by somebody with a master in science and an online certificate in dairy cattle nutrition.
Diamond brand foods (including Taste of the Wild, Costco/Kirkland, Diamond, and Nutra Nuggets) are formulated by a computer and packaged in different bags to appeal to different markets.
Boutique brands also don’t participate in nutrition research and science. In many cases, the pet foods they make are only “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO”, on paper.
This sounds great, but all that means is that on paper they’ve added enough nutrients to satisfy a minimum legal guideline. It doesn’t mean that they’ve tested and proven the formulation itself.
So when a brand is telling you they are “super-premium” and “holistic”, ask yourself if you are being sold to, or if that food has legitimate science backing its claims of being “healthier”.
Each food company was asked to provide information about just a few key things, including who formulates their food.
You’ll notice that many boutique dog food brands refused to share the requested information because it is damning to their brand.
We smell something fishy here, folks, and it’s not the fish meal in your bag of kibble.
The Great Grain-Free Debate
So what is inherently wrong with a “super-premium”, “natural” dog food from a boutique company, anyways? Let’s talk for a moment about the great grain-free pet food debate.
Secondary DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) is a devastating condition of the heart that often presents with no symptoms and can result in sudden death.
Many otherwise ‘healthy’ shiny dogs ‘with good poop’ who randomly die while playing or after going for a walk have been diagnosed with, or even passed from DCM, and the owners never knew something was wrong.
No official pre-death diagnosis means that very little data is collected on the dogs who die this way. The devastated owners move on with their lives, assuming that their dog had a genetic problem. Veterinarians around the country are seeing it happen over and over again.
While genetics do play a role in primary DCM, secondary DCM is believed to be caused by unbalanced nutrition. These dogs are essentially starved for certain amino acids and micro-nutrients: the heart enlarges and eventually gives out.
Current studies indicate that this is not just a ‘grain-free’ problem but likely a poorly formulated ’boutique foods’ and marketing problem. ?
This brings us back to the fact that a sound majority of boutique dog food brands do not employ a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to formulate their food. This includes Gentle Giants.
As a Great Dane owner, you could not PAY me to feed Gentle Giants dog food.
Nutritional levels established by AAFCO
AAFCO is a non-profit agency that works in tandem with government regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies moderate and enforce nutrition and food safety, and AAFCO was established to help with definitions and requirements.
The AAFCO label on every dog food bag is there to help you establish if the formula is correct for your dog.
You can read their post on pet food ingredients here: https://www.aafco.org/Consumers/What-is-in-Pet-Food
Here is some information on what AAFCO does: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/What-Is-AAFCO-and-What-Does-It-Do
How to choose food for Great Danes
All of this canine nutrition information can be frustrating and alarming to Great Dane owners who want to choose the best foods for their giant dogs!
We recommend picking a highly-researched, truly science-backed brand that employs highly qualified professionals (Veterinary Nutritionists) to formulate their food.
Find out if the formulations from those brands are substantiated in actual food tests, or if they just look correct on paper.
Ask if the brand has made any contributions to widely accepted canine nutrition science (the very science that has also now made it possible to feed Great Danes puppy food instead of adult food, YAY!).
Contrary to what small boutique brands want you to believe, the blueberries and spinach they have added in minuscule amounts to make you ‘feel good’ are doing nothing but lining their pockets.
If you want your dog to have blueberries, toss a few whole ones into their food, instead! Serving a balanced meal is important, however, so no matter what, make sure that toppers make up less than 10% of your dog’s overall dry dog food diet.
We recommend Large Breed Purina Pro Plan (puppy or adult, salmon recipe) or Royal Canin Giant Breed foods as the gold standard in healthy, highly researched dog foods for your gentle giant. However, Eukanuba and Iams have solid choices for you as well, at all price points!
The Sensitive Skin and Stomach line from Pro Plan is perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies. Allergies may indicate problems with the immune system and overall health, which can increase bloat risk, too.
Picky dogs hate their food after a short time. If you have a picky gentle giant, we recommend sticking with the same food, avoiding bribery, and making food FUN by offering it in puzzles or for training.
Senior dogs may eat less, too. Don’t mistake this natural behavior for ‘pickiness’.
The Dog Food Advisor Blog
Many people turn to the Dog Food Advisor blog for information about choosing pet food. It’s one of the top blogs to show up on a Google search when looking for dog food reviews!
The Dog Food Advisor rates the Gentle Giants brand as 4/5 stars and considers it an ‘above average dry product’ with a ‘moderate amount of meat’.
Here is the thing about the Dog Food Advisor. That blog was created by a human dentist with absolutely no credentials at all in veterinary nutrition. The rating system is made up.
Of course, we aren’t veterinary nutritionists either. But unlike the Dog Food Advisor, we aren’t making up a ratings system. Our evaluation of food is based purely on nutrition science and company manufacturing practices and ethics.
We align ourselves with veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists, for a reason. Our recommendations may not “look pretty” and “feel good” like the ones on the Dog Food Advisor, but we can confidently state that our information is based on science, NOT what results in more clicks and traffic.
That said, the Dog Food Advisor does rate Pro Plan as a top pick on its ‘recommended foods list’, and states that it is one of the only brands highly tested and formulated by a team of veterinary nutritionists. They are correct about that.
Our Rating of Gentle Giants Dog Food
This is one food we think you should skip.
Wild and questionable marketing claims about longevity (“Your dog can live longer!”).
Affiliated with a sketchy ‘giant breed rescue’ (very likely a puppy mill, but at the least nothing more than a wild pack of dogs that are fed out of trash cans and left to their own devices).
Unclear calcium/phosphorus levels.
Co-packed in a random factory.
Higher carb content than “low quality” Purina Dog Chow.