Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★★

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost product line lists seven dry dog foods, five claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two for adult maintenance.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Meal
  • Instinct Raw Boost Beef Meal and Lamb Meal
  • Instinct Raw Boost Duck Meal and Turkey Meal
  • Instinct Raw Boost Lamb Meal and Salmon Meal
  • Instinct Raw Boost Venison Meal and Lamb Meal
  • Instinct Healthy Weight Raw Boost Chicken Meal
  • Instinct Healthy Weight Raw Boost Salmon Meal and Turkey Meal

Instinct Raw Boost Duck Meal and Turkey Meal formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Instinct Raw Boost Duck Meal and Turkey Meal

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 39% | Fat = 22% | Carbs = 31%

Ingredients: Duck meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, tapioca, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), pumpkin seeds, tomato pomace, herring meal, sun-cured alfalfa meal, natural duck flavor, montmorillonite clay, freeze dried duck, freeze dried turkey, freeze dried turkey liver, freeze dried turkey hearts, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, biotin, niacin supplement, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, beta carotene, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydroiodide), dried kelp, salt, blueberries, peas, cranberries, apples, carrots, butternut squash, inulin, ground flaxseed, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, apple cider vinegar, parsley, honey, salmon oil, rosemary extract, olive oil, alfalfa sprouts, persimmons, rosemary, sage, clove, yeast culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis36%20%NA
Dry Matter Basis39%22%31%
Calorie Weighted Basis32%43%25%

The first ingredient in this dog food includes duck meal. Duck meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh duck.

The second ingredient is turkey meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The third ingredient lists salmon meal, yet another high-protein meat concentrate.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

We are pleased to note that, unlike many fish meals, this particular item appears2 to be ethoxyquin-free.

The fourth item is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.

The fifth ingredient is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while some condemn it as an unhealthy fat.

Much of the objection regarding canola oil appears to be related to the use of genetically modified rapeseed as its source material.

Yet others find the negative stories about canola oil more the stuff of urban legend than actual science.3

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

The sixth ingredient is pumpkin seed. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and, more importantly, linoleic acid — an essential omega-6 fat.

The seventh ingredient is 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.

The eighth ingredient includes herring meal, another high-protein meat concentrate.

The ninth ingredient is alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

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 five notable exceptions

First, 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).

Next, salmon oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.

In addition, olive oil contains oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat. It’s also rich in natural antioxidants and carotenoids.

Next, we note the inclusion of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.

And lastly, this food also 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 Raw Boost Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost dog food looks like an above average dry 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 39%, a fat level of 22% and estimated carbohydrates of about 31%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 39% and a mean fat level of 20%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 32% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 52%.

High protein. Above-average fat. And low carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the boosting effects of the alfalfa meal, peas and chickpeas contained in other recipes, this looks like the profile of a dry product containing a significant amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost dog food is a meat-based dry product using a generous amount of various species specific meat and fish meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

Special Alert

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.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits 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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

06/01/2013 Original review
06/21/2013 Review updated
06/21/2013 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  2. per Nature’s Variety FAQ
  3. Mikkelson, B and DP, Oil of Ole, Urban Legends Reference Pages (2005)
  • theBCnut

    Did you try more than one of the different proteins? As Sue says, this sounds like a food intolerance issue and they are usually to ingredients that have protien in them. It can be either meat or plant protein, but you will need to save ingredient lists from the foods you try and compare lists to figure out what he may be reacting to.

    As an example, my dog is sensitive to chicken, many grains, and tomato, and I may be going to add turkey to that list soon.

  • sue66b

    There must be something in the kibble that he’s allergic to I know with skin problems you have to cut out carbs or have a low carb diet,try looking at all the ingredients & see what is the same in all the kibbles u try,, Im having the same problem with my boy at the moment, I took him to the vets on tuesday & the vet said its enviornment allergies, not food, I thought it was food too but when vet looked on computer I was at the vets the same time 1 yr ago with the same problems, u’ll see a pattern with envviornment allergies start keep a diary & write when he’s itchy & not itchy & what he’s eating at the time & see if there’s a pattern

  • Alyssa

    Our dog gets terribly itchy skin from this brand. We tried another and put him back on it to make sure this was the allergy culprit. It took less than 5 days for him to be miserable again. Obviously we are now trying another grain free brand because the funny thing is he was fine in science diet sensitive skin but there were a ton of fillers in it

  • Tammy ellway

    Montmorillonite clay is in VitaHound the dog supplement that cured our dog’s allergies. The substance removes the excessive moister in the dog’s small intestine. The small intestine’s biological function is to eliminate the water in their food, however a dog’s normal diet creates unhealthy conditions, for this reason supplementing an ingredient that assist the process is highly helpful to the health and function of a dog’s digestive process.

  • havanagirl

    I recently switched to this kibble and googled “montmorillonite clay” which is one of the ingredients that looked strange to me and found out it can have a VERY constipating effect. I have one dog that often has a looser stool, so he is doing well on this food, but I will probably not switch the other dog to this. I am sorry to hear about your puggle and hope he is doing well now.

  • Shawna

    Hi USADogTreats,

    When it comes to glutamine I think the form and overall consumption are most important. Freed glutamic acid is used differently by the body then when in whole food form.

    I think the below is an important aspect of Dr. Ettinger’s article — one I completely agree with.

    “Although fruits and veggies are carbs, they also provide naturally
    occurring phytochemicals, flavonoids, and vitamins. Such dietary agents are called chemopreventative because they have potentially cancer-fighting properties that promote cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells – they help get rid of deranged cancer cells.

    Epidemiologic studies in people show protective effects of diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and diets low in fruits and veggies have been associated with cancer risk.”

    I do agree with you that many of THK products wouldn’t be my first, second or even third choice for a cancer patient, I do like Zeal and Love. Add an egg or sardines to the daily meals and get even better results. These foods include cancer fighting “carbs” in whole food forms and there is no question as to the quality of the ingredients with THK.

  • USADogTreats

    Hi HDM,

    Thanks for the links!

    It’s exciting to think that you can fight and beat cancer with diet. The frustrating part is that the Mercola article states about Glutamine;

    “Glucose and glutamine are major fuels for malignant cancer cells .”

    And on DogAware regarding Glutamine;

    “The amino acids L-Arginine and L-Glutamine may help inhibit tumor growth. Glutamine can also help with muscle wasting (cachexia) that may occur as well. See the following articles for more information:”

    Then on the Dog Cancer blog SUSAN ETTINGER, DVM, DIP. ACVIM (ONCOLOGY) states;

    “Since cancer cells use glucose (carbs) as an energy source, there is a lot of worry with feeding carbs to cancer patients. The idea behind a cancer diet is low carb, and high in quality proteins and fats. While there is little scientific data specifically showing feeding such a diet (low carb) helps treat the dog cancer, as long as the diet is balanced, I think there is no harm, in my opinion.”

    And she highly recommends The Honest Kitchen which is pretty high in carbohydrates.

    So we have one say that Glutamine feeds cancer while another says that Glutamine inhibits tumor growth and the third one says that a high carbohydrate food like The Honest Kitchen is a great food for a dog with cancer.

    I always start reading the articles with great excitement but then the I am brought back to reality by the conflicting data!

  • BaileyGirl

    Thank You Hound Dog Mom. Yes I am looking in to immune boosting supplements as well. I will also look in to this ketenogenic diet!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Just an afterterthought – due to the fact that your pup no longer has a spleen combined with the fact that she has cancer I would highly recommend getting her on some immune-boosting supplements. The spleen is a vital component of the immune system and patients battling cancer have a compromised immune system for obvious reasons. I would look into things like turmeric, bromelain, medicinal mushrooms, colostrum, etc. Maybe a spleen glandular could also be beneficial.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    A fresh natural diet is ideal (if possible). For most types of cancer protein (high quality) and fat should be increased and carbohydrates should be limited as this can aid in slowing tumor growth and prevent cachexia. Tumors need glucose to live so feeding high levels of carbohydrates will, essentially, “feed” the tumor.

    More on this here:

    Dr. Mercola recently had a great article on the success of ketenogenic diets in overcoming cancer:

    “Many cancer patients have reportedly overcome the disease by adopting a ketogenic diet, which calls for eliminating carbohydrates, replacing them with healthy fats and protein…”


    This website has some good information:

    Best of luck to your pup!

  • BaileyGirl

    I am searching for a good dog food for my dog who is in recovering from a splenectomy surgery. She had a massive tumor on her spleen and it is more likely malignant. Therefore, I am trying to find something that will help her fight off cancer cells as best as possible. NVI Raw Boost seems like a decent choice. Any thoughts?

  • brenro

    Our seven year old coonhound has been eating the chicken variety since it was released and she couldn’t be healthier. Can’t help you on the price though. It is rather expensive.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I know that the NVI raw food uses rabbit from China, but I think that’s it.

  • Kirt

    Do they get there meat or chicken or anything from china

  • Pattyvaughn

    Have you looked online for better prices?

  • Storm’s Mom

    Which recipe of NVI was your dog scratching on and which one was your daughter’s dog scratching on? It’s likely an allergy to a protein in that recipe.

  • Colleen

    I love NVI all my critters are on this I have 3 dogs 4 cats it is very expensive but they do good on this. I have one Coonhound that was getting pretty itchy red itchy and no fleas she is on comfortis flea stuff anyway, I switched her to the Duck limited ingredient and all is well she has stopped and she is not so red. My daughters Coonhound is on NVI too but is having the same issues so I told her to do a limited Duck or the lamb limited ingredient, I think she is going to change back to Call of the wild one it is cheeper but she said the dog did not do this on that food. I am sticking to NVI I also give the raw boost powder to my other dogs and canned as well the limited ingredient to the one that needs that one. I spend every two weeks around 160.00 to 180.00 which is more then I spend on myself but I am one.

  • Colleen

    If you switched him from raw to kibble and just dry kibble at that his inners were not ready to handle this. Did you transistion the new food into the diet or did you just go- wam bam thankyou mam? You could have caused the blockage not the food. I always put warm water in mix it around get the raw coating on the food to make a nice gravy plus the raw boost powder and some wet NVI. Plenty of water, I did have to go for one of my dogs on the limited Duck only because she was itching and now has calmed down too many proteins one or two she could not take. Good luck with your pup

  • Lovemydog

    Our dog who was from a kill shelter – came to our home and would eat anything put in his dish…fast foward a few months and he stopped eating kibble. This was our third kibble we tried as suggested at the pet store. We also sprinkle “SMACK” very berry chicken dehydrated raw food diet on top and he finishes the bowl almost every day – that being said I am still trying to get the serving size down right as it is essentially a mix of two foods.

  • Pam Milewski

    My dog just finished her first bag and it was not the healthy weight but she did lose weight and is toned and fit looking with the only difference being we switched to Natures Variety Raw Boost in Chicken.

  • Pam Milewski

    Most reputable pet stores will let you exchange it for another food as long as within 30 days and there is at least half of the bag left. My dog went through several 5 star brands she would not touch before trying this one, which she loves.

  • Pam Milewski

    I had the same results. Waited to post until finished a whole bag. I am so impressed in the changes of her skin, coat, and activity levels after switching to this food.

  • Pam Milewski

    When my picky eater started being lethargic, having dander, shedding, skin allergies, and then threw up a few times after starting a new bag of her usual dog food…we did some research and learned her old dog food had a history of recalls and bad reviews. After speaking to other Basenji owners, we set out to find a 5 star food she would eat. There were several popular 5 star foods she would not even touch and then we tried Nature’s Variety Dry Raw Boost in Chicken. It had came highly recommended by people we knew who feed it to their dogs. We bought a 4lb bag since she is picky. She ate the whole bowl. Awesome, she liked it! We just finished that first bag and by the end of that bag…her skin allergy is completely gone. She no longer has dander either and her coat is so shiny. She is looking fit and trim again too. At 9, she is now acting like she did as a young pup. She is playful and happy. No more lethargy. We bought a new bag yesterday. I am so happy to have found a food that she likes, that is good for her, and that has helped her regain her health and personality back.

  • Nancy K

    I’m in the same boat, and I bought a big bag… He has never hated food like this. I’m so bummed that I wasted the money. The kibble has a horrible odor.. I kind of don’t blame my dog for not wanting it.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Freya –

    I think the Nature’s Variety Healthy Weight formulas look like a great option for a weight loss food. However, keep in mind, that simply switching to a “weight loss” food will not make the pounds fall off. It is necessary to create an energy deficit of 3,500 kcal. for each pound lost. The most effective way to do this is through reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie expenditure (activity). I’d recommend calculating how many calories your dog was eating on his previous food, reducing that by 10% and determining how many cups that would equate to with the NV Healthy Weight. Aim for a loss of 3% – 5% of the dog’s weight over the course of a month – this would equate to about a pound per week for a 100 lb. dog. If the dog isn’t losing, reduce calorie intake another 5 – 10% until you start seeing results. Make sure to account for all treats the dogs receives and adjust food intake accordingly.

  • Freya

    Is Nature’s Variety Healthy Weight a good choice for weight loss?

  • Andrea

    My dogs both pick out the freeze dried raw pieces only and do their best to ignore the rest. Not sure yet if we will stick with it just yet…

  • Melissaandcrew

    Thanks Sandy. I googled it an came up with nothing, then the NV site I was on was not current.

  • sandy
  • Melissaandcrew

    I see that up top, but can not find any info for them?

  • sandy

    Just noticed two new healthy weight recipes!

  • Budchen

    I hope he is doing o.k. now. what a scary thing!!!!!

  • budchen

    Maybe he was not used to dry food.I did read in a German artikel written by a Vet that dogs eating dry food are always suffering from a mild form of dehydration. Thats why i always soak my kibbles before i give them to my dogs. it also helps with sensible stomachs.

  • Pattyvaughn

    That is a very strange thing to have happen. I wonder if it could have been because his body was not used to having to provide so much moisture to the stomach and intestines after eating raw. I’m glad you realized something was wrong so quickly.

  • Jeffrey Bryner

    Our puggle ended up requiring a surgical procedure to clear his colon/intestine of a solid blockage occupying the better part of the colon/intestine after switching to this product from the Nature’s Variety raw product (due to non-availability of the raw product). He had been eating the raw food for several years. He was eating the Instinct rawBOOST for no more than 1 week. The vet indicated that his was a situation not seen before and for all intents and purposes was due to ingredients in the food he ate which somehow for a solid mass in him which he never would have been able to pass. We have called Nature’s Variety and have not received a return call.

  • Budchen

    My dog Princess had bad skin problems so i was searching the internet for a new food. Tried Natures variety instinct raw boost with the Natures variety instinct frozen raw. Her skin cleared up in a week and is shiny white. No more scratching. Her fur is shiny and she is much more alert as she was before. My other dog loves it too and his fur and activity level increased as well. i am so happy and they love their meals now.

  • Pattyvaughn

    The guaranteed analysis may have small differences and cats require taurine, which most dogs don’t, but if it is in the food anyway they don’t have to add it for cat food.

  • Edie Vines

    A friend bought wet cat food for me. The ingredients are the same as the dog food which is cheaper. What’s the difference ?