Nature’s Variety Instinct canned dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Nature’s Variety Instinct product line includes eight canned dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Beef
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Lamb
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Venison
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Chicken
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Pork (4.5 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck (4.5 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Rabbit (4.5 stars)
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Salmon (4.5 stars)
Nature’s Variety Instinct Duck was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct Duck Formula
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Duck, turkey liver, water, ground flaxseeds, tricalcium phosphate, montmorillonite clay, peas, potassium chloride, carrots, lecithin, vitamins (choline chloride, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, riboflavin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), dried kelp, salt, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 12%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||40%||30%||22%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||30%||54%||16%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is duck. Duck is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of duck”.1
Duck is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second ingredient is turkey liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The third ingredient is water, which adds nothing but moisture to this food. Water is a routine finding in most canned dog foods.
The fourth ingredient is flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The fifth ingredient is tricalcium phosphate, a beneficial source of calcium and phosphorous. In addition, this additive is used in canned foods as an emulsifier — an agent designed to disperse a food’s fats more evenly in water.
The sixth ingredient is montmorillonite clay, a naturally occurring compound rich in many trace minerals. Montmorillonite has been approved for use in USDA Organic Certified products.
Reported benefits include the binding of certain mold-based toxins and even controlling diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The seventh ingredient is peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.
But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.
With one notable exceptions…
This food contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct canned dog food looks like an above-average wet product.
But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 42% and a mean fat level of 29%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 21% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 69%.
Near-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
However, the higher fat content associated with some recipes may not be appropriate for every animal.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed and peas, this looks like the profile of a wet product containing a significant amount of meat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct is a meat-based canned dog food using a significant amount of various named species as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.
Those looking for a nice kibble to go with this product may wish to visit our review of Nature’s Variety Instinct dry dog food.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.
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However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.
For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".
Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.
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Notes and Updates
06/03/2014 Last Update
- Adapted by the Dog Food Advisor from the official definition for chicken published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition ↩