Is Instinct a good dog food?
In this review… The Dog Food Advisor takes a close look at Instinct Dog Food… and its six most popular sub-brands.
We’ll also reveal…
- Is Instinct Dog Food made in the United States?
- Has Instinct been recalled?
- Which flavors and recipes get our top ratings?
Which Instinct Sub-Brand Is Right for You?
In the section below, you’ll discover Instinct’s 6 most popular sub-brands. We’ll share what makes each one different. So, you can choose the food that best suits your dog.
Raw Boost is Instinct’s premium dry food. The grain-free recipe starts with a high-protein kibble… and adds in real freeze-dried raw meat… all in the same bag.
- No BHA, BHT or other high-risk preservatives
- 33% mean carbs (below-average)
- 15 recipes (ratings vary)
This is the wet version of Instinct’s dry limited ingredient canine diet (above). For the same reasons, this canned line may be helpful for dogs with possible food sensitivities.
- Single animal protein source
- Tasty topper for matching limited ingredient kibble
- 3 recipes (ratings vary)
A Quick Guide to Instinct Raw Boost
Thinking about Instinct Raw Boost… but confused by its unusual design? This short video from Chewy may help.
Who Makes Instinct Dog Food?
Instinct is owned by Natures Variety of Lincoln, Nebraska. All Instinct recipes are made at the company’s own facilities in Lincoln.
Each Instinct dog food is formulated by the company’s on-staff professionals. This includes a veterinarian who is board-certified in both veterinary nutrition and integrative medicine.
The company’s chief scientific officer holds a PhD in food science. And one of its directors of research and development holds a masters degree in the same field.
Has Instinct Dog Food Been Recalled?
Here’s a list of all recalls since 2009 related to Instinct dog products. Updates are added as soon as new recalls are posted.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Dog Food Recall of July 2015 (7/24/2015)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2013 (2/15/2013)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall July 2012 (7/12/2012)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall March 2010 (3/9/2010)
- Nature’s Variety Dog Food Recall February 2010 (2/14/2010)
You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls here.
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Is Instinct a Good Dog Food?
Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Dog Food earns The Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
Which Instinct Recipes Get
Our Best Ratings?
The Instinct Original product line includes the 5 dry dog foods listed below.
Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile when available… Growth (puppy), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Recipe and Label Analysis
Instinct Original Grain Free with Real Chicken was selected to represent the other products in the line for detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.
Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.
Instinct Original Grain Free with Real Chicken
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, herring meal, menhaden fish meal, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), carrots, apples, cranberries, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), potassium chloride, montmorillonite clay, taurine, choline chloride, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, pumpkinseeds, freeze dried chicken heart, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.8%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||41%||22%||29%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||33%||44%||23%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains up to 73% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.
After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The second ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The third ingredient includes 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.
The fourth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The fifth ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.
The next two ingredients include herring meal and menhaden fish meal, yet more high protein meat concentrates.
After the natural flavor, we find tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
Other Notable Ingredients
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 Nature’s Variety product.
With 5 notable exceptions…
First, this recipe 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.
Next, we note the use of sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium. Sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.
In addition, we find taurine, an important amino acid associated with the healthy function of heart muscle. Although taurine is not typically considered essential in canines, some dogs have been shown to be deficient in this critical nutrient.
Since taurine deficiency appears to be more common in pets consuming grain-free diets, we view its presence in this recipe as a positive addition.
Next, montmorillonite clay is 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).
And lastly, this food contains dried fermentation products. Fermentation products are typically added as probiotics to aid with digestion.
Based on its ingredients alone, Instinct Original Dog Food appears to be an above-average dry product.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 40% and a mean fat level of 23%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 29% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.
Which means this Instinct product line contains…
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Our Rating of Instinct Dog Food
The Dog Food Advisor finds Instinct to be an exceptional grain-free dry kibble. The Original recipe uses an abundance of named meat meal as its primary source of animal protein… thus earning the brand 5 stars. The Limited Ingredient formula gets 4.5 stars.
Enthusiastically recommended with confidence.
What Do Others Say About Instinct?
As of the time of this update…
Chewy customers rate Instinct 4.6 out of 5 stars… and 94% say they would recommend it to others.
Here’s an actual user review…
Sample buyer review… “I have a large breed very picky eater. I tried numerous brands (7-10) when she was a puppy and finally ended up adding gravy and hotdogs to get her to eat. She is now 6 years old and I recently tried instinct original. What a turn around. She not only gobbles it down but sits in front of the bag of food asking for more. This is literally the first dog food besides wet that she likes let alone craves. I chose it after reading multiple reviews that listed it as one of the top choices.”
What Are Instinct’s Best Recipes?
Based on the weighted average of their popularity and ratings, here are our 7 most recommended Instinct flavors and recipes.
- Instinct Original Grain-Free with Real Chicken Dry
- Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free with Real Chicken Dry
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free with Real Lamb Dry
- Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Real Beef Recipe
- Instinct Original Grain-Free with Real Rabbit Dry
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free with Real Turkey Dry
- Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Natural Wet
Does Instinct make a dog food for weight loss?
Dog foods designed for safe and effective weight loss typically contain below-average calories and fat. Instinct Raw Boost Healthy Weight meets these standards. For more options, you can view all The Dog Food Advisor’s best dog foods for weight loss here.
Is Instinct considered a healthy dog food?
All Instinct recipes meet dog food nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These standards are based on the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats published by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science in Washington, D.C. Each Instinct recipe is complete and balanced for the canine life stage printed on the package.
Is Instinct dog food good for puppies?
Instinct offers a number of dog foods that are designed to be complete and balanced for puppies. Each recipe must meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for either growth or all life stages. Instinct dog foods made specifically for adult maintenance should not be fed to growing puppies. For more options, you can view The Dog Food Advisor’s best puppy foods here.
Is Instinct dog food good for older dogs?
Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free with Real Chicken is designed specifically for older dogs. Each recipe contains over 40% dry matter protein and about 18% fat. Calorie content is around 478 calories per cup. The recipe meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages… which makes it a healthy option for senior dogs. For more choices, visit The Dog Food Advisor’s best senior dog foods here.
More Instinct Reviews
Here are more Instinct reviews published by The Dog Food Advisor on this website.
- Instinct Be Natural Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food Review (Canned)
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Original Dog Food Review (Canned)
- Instinct Raw Boost Dog Food Review (Dry)
- Instinct Raw Frozen Diets Dog Food Review (Raw Frozen)
- Nature’s Variety Prairie Dog Food Review (Dry)
Compare Instinct Dog Food
How does Instinct compare with The Dog Food Advisor’s most recommended brands?
A Final Word
The Dog Food Advisor is privately owned. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.
However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) and from sellers of perishable pet food when readers click over to their websites from ours. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.
For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.
Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
03/18/2022 Last Update