Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze Dried Raw (Freeze-Dried)


Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Nature’s Variety Instinct freeze-dried raw dog food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Nature’s Variety Instinct product line lists three freeze-dried raw 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.

  • Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Beef Formula
  • Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Lamb Formula
  • Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Chicken Formula

Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nature's Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Formula

Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 34% | Fat = 26% | Carbs = 33%

Ingredients: Chicken (including ground chicken bone), turkey liver, turkey heart, pumpkinseeds, carrots, butternut squash, apples, ground flaxseed, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, ethylenediamine dihydriodide, sodium selenite), montmorillonite clay, dried kelp, potassium chloride, broccoli, vitamins (vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), choline chloride, taurine, mixed tocopherols, apple cider vinegar, salmon oil, rosemary extract, blueberries, dried chicory root

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 16%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis32%24%NA
Dry Matter Basis34%26%33%
Calorie Weighted Basis27%48%25%
Protein = 27% | Fat = 48% | Carbs = 25%

The first ingredient in this dog food includes chicken and ground chicken bone. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1

Chicken is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life. The ground bone is an excellent source of natural calcium.

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 turkey heart. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing to us humans, heart tissue is pure muscle — all meat. It’s naturally rich in quality protein, minerals and complex B vitamins, too.

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

The fifth ingredient includes carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The sixth ingredient is squash. Squash is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The seventh ingredient is apple, a nutrient-rich fruit that’s also high in fiber.

The eighth 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.

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 four 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, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.

Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

And lastly, 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 Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nature’s Variety Instinct freeze-dried raw dog food looks like an above-average 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 34%, a fat level of 26% and estimated carbohydrates of about 32%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 34% and a mean fat level of 26%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 32% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 77%.

Below-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing a moderate amount of meat.

However, with 48% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 27% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.

Bottom line?

Nature’s Variety Instinct is a meat-based freeze-dried raw dog food using a moderate amount of named meats and organs as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

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.

Nature’s Variety Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

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Notes and Updates

12/03/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Weirdanimalboy .

    Word of warning. I bought a packet of the beef formula for my pit/lab mix and gave him a little less than a handful each feeding over maybe 4 or 5 days. On the 5 night, I gave maybe a 1.5 or 2 handfuls because the bag was pretty much empty. So he eats it with his dry food (which was Canidae), and then settles down in his crate to sleep. I wake up at 2 in the morning to use the bathroom, and when I get out of bed he jumps up from laying down in his crate, which he rarely does. Whenever he’s a sleep for the night, he’s out like a light. So I go to the bathroom, and when I come back….wet loose stool in his crate!!! I suspected either his stomach was too messed up for him to sleep, or he was holding off sleep so I could take him out again. Either way, his stomach upset was only for that night and maybe a little bit of the next day, so not too bad. Moral of the story, if your dog normally eats more bland food, take addition of this stuff at a cautionary crawl.

  • Dar LeGrand Normand

    HI everyone, I have a beautiful 9 month old sable collie that is picky as all get out….He’s been on Science Diet (Breeder had him on this) switched him to Blue Buffalo Wilderness and after a month he stopped eating it. Then came Blue Buffalo Basic. We decided to do the grilled chicken/ grilled hamburger route mixed with Origen. I even cooked eggs and put with it. Loved that for a while but hard keeping everything cooked all the time. Then again stopped eating that and switched him to Acadan and that was a no go. We now have him on Primal with Fromms. . He’s decided he doesn’t want now…Any suggestions? I just brought home Instinct for my cat for the first time. HE WENT CRAZY OVER IT….So tired of switching foods, if i get this one for him, his track record is love it then leave it…. If we leave the food down there he will wine and push he food out of the bowl onto the floor…UGH, HELP!!!

  • Dori

    Hi RevNyc. So sorry to hear all you’re going through. Was wondering if the NV Chicken Raw Patties is all you’ve been him? You have ever fed him the Primal Raw Patties? I just went on their web site and noted that their rabbit, pheasant, venison & sardine and turkey formulas have a good percentage of protein but those particular ones are much lower in fat than any of the NV Raw Patties. I like the quality of their fruits better than the apples in NV Raw. Apples contain a lot of sugar. Could be that higher fat and sugars are adding to higher cholesterol levels. I’m not sure. Are you feeding him treats with carbs? I’d try feeding him high protein, lower fat and low carb for a while ans see how he does. I recently read an article stating that sugar contributes to high bad cholesterol levels. Quality fats do not. Anyway, it’s just a thought. I use both NV Raw, as well as Primal and others for my three dogs, but I feed a rotational diet so their never really getting too much or too little of anything. I rotate often and their cholesterol levels are all well within normal. I don’t know whether antibiotics would alter cholesterol levels, I’m hoping someone more knowledgeable in that regard can help you with that. Also you can try googling antibiotics and cholesterol and see if anything comes up. Hope anything I’ve posted helps. I also hope things get better for you and your dog. I’ll keep you both in my thoughts.

  • RevNyc

    Hello Everyone- Been awhile since I posted. I have unfortunately been going through some tough times with my dog in the past six months. We had a failed THR and the prosthetic needed to be removed and an FHO was done. We also had an emergency this week due to unknown acute liver trauma. Not sure if its lepto, something he ate or god knows what else. $20,000 later…..

    Anyway the reason I am here is because the dog is on Natures Variety Chicken Patties. He has been on these for quite some time. His cholesterol is through the roof 92-324 measurement registering at 457. He has been on a ton of antibiotics over the past 6 months so I have no clue if that effects cholesterol but could it really be this high bc of his food? Very concerning since I am spending $250 a month thinking my dog is eating top notch food and its more like McDonalds.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Yeah, probably at first. Start with 75% old food, 25% new food ..and do that until your dog’s stool is firm, and then increase to 50%/50%, stay with that for a few days until stool is firm, then up to 75% new food/25% old food, stay with that until stool is firm, until finally you’re at 100%. Should take 2-3 weeks.

    One of the great things about getting your dog used to rotating is that once you’ve done it enough times, you won’t have to do a transition like this anymore, you can just start feeding the new food immediately. Gives you a LOT of flexibility in what to feed when 🙂

    I’m doing a 24 hour transition with Storm right now.. I started at 50/50 last night, went up to 75 new/25 old this morning, will do the same tonight (just because I still have that much old food left), and then tomorrow morning he’ll be on 100% new food..but he can also switch “cold turkey”, too, if need/desire be.

  • FirstTimeDogOwner

    Ok – but as I rotate to another new brand, I need to do it gradually right?

  • Storm’s Mom

    No, because you’re not really rotating then, as it’s likely all ingredients EXCEPT the protein will be the same ..same source, same everything. So, you’re not really “rotating”. You want to switch it all up as much as possible.

  • FirstTimeDogOwner

    Thank you. Do you think I should begin rotating within the same brand first?

  • Storm’s Mom

    Further to what Pattyvaughn said, when you are choosing ones to rotate with, look for different proteins. So, choose a fish one, a venison one, a turkey one, etc etc and rotate among them. You don’t have to go with a single-source protein formula, but make note of all the meat sources in the kibble and try not to feed any of the same ones with the next bag or, preferably, the bag after that too. Same thing with carb sources, try to mix it up so that not all of the kibbles have potatoes, peas, etc (it’s getting harder and harder to find pea-less kibbles but they are out there). You can even mix in a grain-inclusive kibble or 2. Nature’s Logic is what I like to use for my grain-inclusive kibble (millet gluten-free, though, so not like a lot of other grains). Merrick is another one that a lot of people seem to like. Nature’s Logic also has, for example, a sardine kibble and a rabbit kibble (the latter also has turkey, though, so something to be aware of), so something unique to feed your dog! 🙂

  • Pattyvaughn

    That sounds like a good start. When you start to get low on that bag, pick out another food to try, like Earthborn Holistic GrainFree or Wellness Core or any of the 5 star foods that you like. Find a few different foods that she does well on and keep rotating between them. Occasionally give her something with probiotics in it and add some fish oil at least once or twice a week, like give her sardines instead of the Nature’s Variety. I also always give digestive enzymes with kibble meals.

  • FirstTimeDogOwner

    I’d like some advice on the food I am feeding my shichon (shitzu/bichon mix). I am a first time dog owner and my puppy is 8months old and weighs 10 lbs. We walk at least a mile a day and max 2 and half miles a day. I’d appreciate any input.

    AM: *3/8C Orijen Red kibbles topped with a tablespoon of Weruza Homestyle canned.

    PM: *3/8C Orijen Red kibbles topped with a few kibbles of Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw freeze dried

  • Pattyvaughn

    I look at the date of the last review and add 18 months to it. Dr Mike (and I’m guessing this is one of the areas that Sandy helps out in) usually gets the update out pretty much to the day. I’m supposing his computer spits out a list of what is due.

  • InkedMarie

    How can you tell when a food is up for a review?

  • Pattyvaughn

    I can tell you that I couldn’t find a proper AAFCO statement anywhere for their freeze dried foods, but if that was why Dr Mike wrote that it was for supplemental or intermittent feeding, I think he would have said that he couldn’t find an AAFCO statement. That’s what he has done with other foods. So it may be that they have reformulated, but I still want to see that proper statement with the nutrient profile info.

    This review is due for an update in October.

  • Lily

    Hi guys,

    Please help me by clarifying, because I’m confused.
    The review here in the bottom line says: “Enthusiastically recommended (for intermittent or supplemental feeding only).”
    But Nature’s Variety Instinct’s website says: “Instinct® Raw Freeze Dried Meal or Mixer is complete and balanced, wholesome raw food that can be served alone, or added to any kibble or canned food.”

    So does this mean they have updated the formula to be good as the main diet without being supplemental only?

    I have a pomeranian puppy 5 months old. She is an extremely picky eater. I had her on Wellness Core grain-free, which she wasn’t thrilled about. Then I slowly transitioned her to Nature’s Variety Instinct grain-free kibble, which she is not crazy about either. She is teething now and perhaps it is painful for her to eat dry kibble, even though I add water to make it softer.

    I researched freeze dried raw and Primal looked to be a good choice. So I thought to switch her to it and bought a small bag to mix with her Instinct dry kibble slowly. She really loves it, but I am wondering if I should try Nature’s Variety Instinct freeze-dried first before switching her to Primal. Because Nature’s Variety is designed for rotation feeding, so that means I could put her on freeze-dried raw right away without having to gradually transition. However, my concern is that the review here states for supplemental feeding only, while Instinct website says it can be main meal or a mixer.
    I trust Dog Food Advisor reviews greatly and therefore hesitating about this food until I get some clarification.

    Please help, guys. Thank you so much!

  • Moose

    Thank you

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Protein doesn’t cause growth issues – calcium can and excess calories can. You should feed no more than 3.5 g. calcium per 1,000 kcal. If you head over to the forum area there’s a topic area dedicated to large breed puppy nutrition and a topic area dedicated to raw. I weaned my last bloodhound pup onto raw at 8 weeks of age, kept calcium levels controlled and she had slow growth with no issues.

  • Moose

    Help! I am getting a White Labrador Retriever puppy within the month, and we currently feed our blue heeler, lab, and gs. mix a dry dog foowant the put lab to be a hunting dog, I’ve been looking into a raw food died for him so that he can be as healthy as possible, I’m not sure if so much protein and calcium would make him grow too fast though! I want to have them both on the same diet eventually. I’m wondering if having him on a raw food diet would feed his little flame or would it be bad on his growth and on his belly. respond asap please!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Oregon Girl –

    I’d look into the link losul posted – I’ve heard great things about medcinal mushrooms and cancer.

    Here are some more links to check out:

    “This is One Lump You Can’t Ignore” by Dr. Becker
    If your pet has been diagnosed with a mast cell tumor, I recommend you work with an integrative or holistic vet to reduce the risk of recurrence. There are supplements that can naturally help reduce mast cell degranulation and reduce histamine release. And I recommend you eliminate carbohydrates, which are pro-inflammatory foods, from your pet’s diet. I also recommend supplementation with a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids suchas krill oil. And I absolutely recommend that you never again vaccinate a mast cell patient.

    Herbs for Cancer in Dogs

    Dog Cancer Diet and Natural Supplements

    Diet for Dogs with Mast Cell Tumors by Dr. Dressler

    Dog Aware: Cancer in Dogs
    Here they recommend supplementing the diet of MCT dogs with turmeric and IP-6.

  • losul

    I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t keep eating the origen as long as he does well on it. Definitely stay away from grains. Consider feeding fresh wholesome foods also occaisonally.

    Lastly, read and possibly consider using these, you can discuss with your vet;

  • Hi Oregon Girl,

    The only reason I can see for the single protein source is that it would limit exposure to possible protein allergies.

    The Chow in my picture (Bosito) had his first mast cell tumor when he was 4 years old. In all he had mast cell tumors 4 times, each time they were surgically removed and each tumor was in a different place. They never came back in the same place twice. He lived to be 11 and died of an unrelated illness.

    Mast cells release histamine and some think that allergies can increase the chance of mast cell tumors in dogs. I used to give Bosito at least 25mg of benadryl at night for one type of histamine and an antacid like tagamet for another type of histamine. I am not sure if they helped or not.

    Every drug has potential side effects and predicted effects that can be problematic. I suggest you do as much research as possible and to find a solution that seems a good fit for you and your Shepherd!

    Limiting possible allergens in his food and environment is something I would definitely do.

  • Oregon Girl

    I have a part GSD that has had Mast Cell Tumors. All have been removed and we are concerned about new ones. He is currently on Orijen Red and loves it. Anyone have any ideas about the best food for this condition. I have been told that he should be on a single protein source. Our vet doesn’t seem to feel that any special food will help. I will do anything to help him!

  • Debby

    I currently own 3 mini dachshunds 13, 8, and 7 and a English Springer Spaniel 9. I am also adding a 6 week old German Shepherd mix puppy to the pack and I am trying to find a good food that is not full of junk. Currently we are feeding our dogs Purina One for senior dogs with no problems however there is so much junk going on with dog food I am considering changing. I do know that the puppy is coming to us eating Purina One large breed puppy food. I started doing research this weekend to see what the recommendations are for a large breed puppy. I found where it says that the protein should be no less than 22, the calcium between 1 and 3 with a preference to it being closer to 1 and the fat between 12 and 15 I believe. I spent the day Saturday reading reviews on the Dog Food Advisor site as well as the Dog Food Analysis site. I have been searching the dry kibble and the raw. With the 5 and for convenience sake I am leaning towards kibble however I want to do what is best for my dogs which are our babies since all of the kids have grown and moved out. I am open to anyones comments and responses on what is best. My end goal is to find a great food that is good for my babies without going bankrupt.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Frozen raw is much cheaper than pre-made. Homemade raw diets can also be formulated to be much cheaper than either freeze-dried or pre-made frozen.

  • Mick

    I went raw for about a year or more with my 45lb golden chow whatever mix. I started with the freeze dried stuff you add water to and then moved to the raw patties. I added bananas and apples in the morning and cucumbers and tomatoes at night. I can tell you at 9 I definitely saw a huge improvement in his teeth and breath. He drank almost no water…as in about one bowl a week, which is a testament to how dehydrated dry food really is. I also noticed he seemed a little less stiff in the mornings. That said, it was tough keeping his weight up. In the end I switched back to dry. If money and time are no object, I would definitely push the raw diet. However, with the aforementioned diet I was probably spending about 150$ a month to feed him. My .02

  • Jc

    I feed my min pin NV I raw kibble, can, dry [email protected], dry LI turkey or lamb. I do not give her any chicken or rice. Before I switch to NV BRAND she had bad allergies extreamly dry skin and many other problems. Now her allergies are much better and only seem to show up if it is extreamly dry day after playing in the park( I live in Cal) her skin is great the rest of her problems are gone. If her stools are real loose for 2 days or more I give her ( fiber) pumpkin or squash to bind. 2 times a week I give her a little extra virgin coconut oil so she has no problem passing her stools due to dryness. EVC also has other great benifits, she also gets vegetarian probiotics @ enzymes to help with the digestion of the food in her gut. Sounds like a lot but its not and all of the things I mentioned I also eat

  • Melissaandcrew

    Hi Linda-

    I have a crew of dogs and mix the raw frozen commercial foods, Grandma Lucy’s dehydrated, canned, and home cooked in with it all the time. I have never had an issue even with those with sensitive stomachs.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I think genetics definitely supersedes all other factors when it comes to hip dysplasia.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I read that article and I think that for some dogs at least, it has some merit. I don’t think its by any means the only answer. He states that dogs develope the joint with the proper ball and socket shape but the elasticity in the connective tissue allows for to much wear, But I had a GSD that before six months of age we knew she had serious issues, so we took very early x-rays. Her femoral head had a very short neck, the ball was flat and the socket was very shallow. That was bad genes, every single one of them, not wear and tear.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Sounds interesting, I’ll definitely check it out. 🙂

  • As usual, we are in total agreement! 🙂

    Oh, I found a REALLY interesting (and probably controversial) article on Dogtor J’s website about hip dysplasia being caused by food intolerances NOT genetics. Thought you might find it interesting 🙂

  • See my response to HDM in this same thread. Thanks a lot.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Must’ve been typing at the same time. I completely agree! The whole not mixing kibble and raw just doesn’t make sense to me. Another one of those silly myths that never seem to go away – like the large breed puppies or small breed dogs shouldn’t eat high protein myths. 🙂

  • Makes sense. Thanks.

    BTW, I’ve always recommended people top lower protein foods with Evanger’s game meats. So I may have been contradicting myself this whole time. LOL

  • Hound Dog Mom

    The theory is that because raw and kibble digest at different rates – raw digests quickly because it’s high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates and kibble digests slowly because it generally contains grains and/or starches and is higher in carbohydrates – that feeding both at the same time will cause stomach upset. I find that theory quite silly – because using that logic canned food or meat toppers shouldn’t be mixed with dry food either as they’ll digest at a different rate too due to lower starch content and higher moisture content. For a dog with a very sensitive stomach mixing raw and kibble could potentially cause an issue – but for the average dog I don’t think it’d be a problem.

  • Hi BryanV21 ~~ Not HDM but I’d like to weigh in here :)..

    In thinking about how foods digest, it makes absolutely no sense to me to say not to mix kibble and raw, or raw and cooked or kibble and canned. Yes, they do digest at different rates but one will not cause the other to go undigested. Foods digest at different rates already.. BUT, the body releases what is ready, chyme, to move on while the undigested portion remains in the stomach to digest more.

    If anything, in my opinion, adding high protein raw to a kibbled food will only help the proteins in the kibble digest better. The increased recognizable protien of the raw stimulates more hydrochloric acid which in turn activates more pepsin which in turn digests protein.
    And I’ve never quite understood where people get the impression that it takes longer to digest raw than kibble. My experiences with urpy foster dogs is TOTALLY the opposite. Commercial raw digests to chyme within 2 to 4 hours while kibble can come back up as undigested kibble 12 to 14 hours after eating. I suppose if one were feeding large chunks of meat that were swallowed whole it could take longer but every processed raw I’ve fed digests quite quickly and efficiently. Just my two cents 🙂

  • I’ve read more saying it’s not a good idea to mix raw and kibble, due to them digesting at different rates, which can cause some stomach upset. One person even mentioned that raw food will sit in the stomach longer and ferment (not sure about this one, but thought I’d add it here).

    Perhaps it’s one of those case-by-case things, as some dog’s stomachs can handle both at the same time, while others can’t.

    I’d like to hear more about this from you HDM, as you have a ton of experience with raw.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    lindas5589 –

    There’s no reason you can’t mix kibble and raw – lots of people do it without any issues. If all you’re doing is mixing in a few freeze-dried raw medallions with the kibble you might want to consider switching to Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost – this is a grain-free kibble with chunks of freeze-dried raw already mixed in the food.

  • lindas5589

    I’ve been on the fence regarding a diet of raw food for my 2 year old 36 pound goldendoodle. But I came across Nature’s Variety last week and thought I would give it a try. After purchasing I started reading how it shouldn’t be mixed with kibble due to the imbalance of kibble and this stuff. I am feeding her Taste of the Wild dry kibble and add “one nugget” of the freeze dried raw. OMG, she absolutey loves it!!! Previously, I’ve been adding different varieties of good canned food to entice her at mealtime, but nothing has her running to the dish like this stuff. I am guessing that the amount I am feeding her on a daily basis (total of 2 nuggets) shouldn’t be too much or cause a problem. If anyone has any input, I would like to hear it. I think the package, which doesn’t recommend this as a diet to eat all the time, more of a supplement, suggests when using to feed for the day feed 4 – 5 nuggets for every ten pounds. Holy cow, that would be the entire $15 bag!

  • Mndhowell2011

    I have a old english bulldogge/ boxer and we switched to this and she loves it. ALso you will find they have massive gas and skin issues. we have had no issues with this. A fish based food would be better if he/she ends up having skin issues but they smell soooo bad. I think this is a good food and I wwill keep her on this. Good luck with your puppy

  • It’s just like the old Instinct with very few pieces of freeze dried.  The kibble is the same size (small).

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Check out the Nature’s Variety Instinct (Dry) thread.

  • Patvl246

    Has anyone tried “Natures Variety Instinct Raw Boost”

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I agree. Working at the humane society I’ve seen a lot puppies that have developed behavioral issues when separated too soon. Obviously we didn’t let them go before 8 weeks, but sometimes we’d get in abandoned litters or single pups that were separated too early. It’s best to wait at least 8 weeks, some good breeders don’t even let them go until later.

  • melissa


    7 weeks is TOO YOUNG to bring a puppy home and any reputable breeder will not allow the litter to be split untill a minimum of 8wks. They need that time to learn socialization with the other pups and learn things such as bite inhibition from mom and sibs. Its so important for the pup to remain with the litter until 8 weeks, that many states have made it law.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Just to add onto my previous comment, I’d definitely recommend your idea of going raw over your husband wanting to feed Blue Buffalo (or any kibble for that matter). Blue Buffalo is a decent food, I used to feed it, however after I switched to raw (I do homemade) my dogs are the healthiest they’ve ever been. I just got a new puppy Saturday and I put her right onto raw, she’s doing great. If you do decide to go with kibble, at least check out some of the reviews here because there are food sout there that a much better quality than Blue – Nature’s Variety Instinct, Orijen, and Acana are some good choices.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Tea_tea1982:

    Nature’s Variety Freeze-Dried is complete and balanced, however if you’re going to feed is as a main meal I’d suggest just going with the frozen, t would probably be cheaper. If the frozen isn’t possible make sure you rehydrate the freeze-dried with water. It can be added to kibble also, Nature’s Variety actually makes a kibble called Raw Boost which has freeze-dried chunks in the kibble.

  • Tea_tea1982

    My question is… Natures Variety Freeze Dried good for Bulldogs as main source of diet or should I mix it with Dried food? I want our Bulldog to grow healthy n strong with minimal health problems if I can start to help prevent it now. All suggestions n help is much appreciated. Thanks!

  • Tea_tea1982

    First time English Bulldog owner. We’re waiting for our new puppy to turn 7 weeks before we can bring him home. My husband and I spend so many hours researching, reading reviews on different Brands of food. Its overwhelming….So far the raw food diet sounds good but my husband wants to try Blue Buffalo. Base on the Reviews I read am adamant about it about starting our Puppy on it.

  • Cv3

    Thanks HDM. Great idea with adding water to the ziwi. I will try it and see if they like it

    I can’t remember the name of the bone but it had very little meAt but u may be right because it had marrow that he licked a lot so maybe it was the fat. He didn’t really chew the bone.

    I think we will try frozen raw and just transition very slowly. Thanks for all ur help

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Cv3,

    This is a good question with a tough answer. All dogs are different. Some detox and others don’t (my dogs didn’t detox). Some detox for a few days and for others it is a few weeks. Signs of detox most generally include mucosy stools, dandruff, shedding, or sores on the skin. You kind of have to go with your gut feeling of is this normal or should I take my dog to the vet. Also, keep in mind, if it was just the bones your dog was having problems with you don’t have to include bones in the diet. You can use a pre-ground raw in which the bones are very finely ground, a pre-mix (like The Honest Kitchen’s Preference or Sojo’s) where you just add boneless raw meat, or a homemade recipe and instead of adding bones add 1,000 mg. of calcium per 1 pound of meat. I’m not sure what type of bone you gave your dog but some are quite fatty and dogs that aren’t used to that level of fat can get loose stools until they become accustomed to it.

    As far as the ZiwiPeak, if you want to stick with that, it is quite dry but there are easy solutions – just soak it in some water prior to feeding or mix it with canned food (ZiwiPeak has some great canned food). I think anyone that feeds a low moisture food (like kibble or ZiwiPeak) should add water or canned anyways.

  • Cv3

    Thanks hdm. I meant to say dehydrated. We feed ziwi now but I read it may not have enough moisture to feed all the time, it says 15% moisture. Is this true that it may not have enough moisture to feed all the time?

    We want to switch to raw but when we gave our little one a raw bone he got sick. And he only ate a few bits of it. People say just stick with it and they will get used to it but how do you know when they are really being hurt by it or they are just detoxing?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Cv3,

    First off, this food is freeze-dried not dehydrated. I’m not sure why the dehydrated is added in parenthesis but freeze-drying and dehydrating are two different processes. Freeze-dried foods retain most of the same properties as the frozen. The big difference is that there is almost no moisture, so if you want to feed your dog freeze-dried you must add water. Feeding freeze-dried is also much more expensive than frozen. I personally would go with frozen for these two reasons. Freeze-dried foods are so expensive the only time their use would really be justified in my opinion would be when there is no access to a refrigerator (like when traveling or camping).

  • Cv3

    Can someone help me out please? Is the dehydrated raw almost as good as feeding the frozen raw?

  • GSDGal ;)

    Hi! I would like to add this to my dogs diets but was wondering how much to feed etc. I would be using it for my two German Shepherds that I’m trying to put weight on, especially my male, Rasauno. He’s Huge with big bones and is 18 months in June now.  Im feeding a combination of Great Life and Brothers Complete occasionally adding some raw hamburger in. How much should I order of this if I’m adding it to 2 dogs diets?

  • Sherry Grove

    my boss’s rottweiler is diabetic 🙁  He says he feeds him 5 star Orijen 6 fish dry and it works wonders.  It is expensive thought About $50 for 30 lb bag or so.  Vet told my boss not to free feed.  only feed 1 X in am what is exactly on bag label and same for p.m.  That will make food last longer.  Hope this helps…

  • sandy


    Choose a dog food with lower glycemic ingredients (legume based). The more protein you have, the less carbs there are. A raw diet would be best if possible as it has the least carbs. And then a high protein canned food and then kibble.

    Dogswell Nutrisca, Horizon Legacy/Amicus/Pulsar, Canine Caviar, Nutrisource Grain Free, Grandma Lucy’s Pureformance, EVO Herring & Salmon. EVO Weight Management, California Natural Grain Free Chicken Meal.

  • Don

    I have a 2 and half yr old Dalmation who was diagnosed with diabetes last year (insulin dependent). He has been on wellness his whole life and despite the vets advice to switch him over to a 3 star prescription diet, we chose to keep him on wellness. Over the year he has been fairly stable. Last week we tried switching him to a freeze-dried food hoping it might keep his blood sugar lower and more stable than a kibble. Unfortunately he doesn’t like it and never finishes. Any advice for a good diabetic food?

  • Gigi

    You might want to try Stella and Chewy freeze dried raw food; my little Porki (Pom/Yokie) loves it. It was introduced to me by two friends who both have picky eaters.

  • Hi Sharron… Though some may disagree, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t mix these two together.

  • sharron

    Hi Mike

    i am wondering if i can mix nature’s variety premade frozen raw with ziwipeak canned dog food.
    It would be 1/2 medallion with 1/2 tbsp of can twice a day.
    Lexee is a 2 1/2 yr old 9 lb. yorkie/chihuahua female.


  • Aaron

    From my additional reading, it can take 6 months or more to go through the trials, so maybe that is something they are working on and have not completed yet…

  • Hi Aaron… You make an excellent point. It just seems logical if the products are made with “the exact same formula”, their AAFCO profiles should be the same, too. Strange.

  • Aaron

    I received this note from the company:

    “Our Instinct Freeze Dried Raw is recommended as intermittent or supplemental feeding/treats only because it is not considered complete and balanced. To define a product as complete and balanced it must go through AAFCO feeding trials, which hasn’t been done with our Instinct Freeze Dried Raw. However, our Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Diets are the exact same formula as our Instinct Raw Frozen Diets, only without the moisture.”

    It seems that if the formula is the same, then it should be OK to make this a dog’s primary food source….?

  • Hi Aaron… Unlike the Raw Frozen product, Nature’s Variety does not appear to recommend its Dehydrated Raw product to be the sole item in a dog’s diet. Here’s the actual text I copied from the company’s website:

    “Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze Dried Raw is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Feed as a singular meal, supplement, treat, or wholesome palatant. If using Freeze Dried Raw as the sole food for a given day, feed 6-7 mini medallions or 4-5 regular medallions per 10 pounds of body weight. Decrease proportionally with the amount of other foods fed.”

    Hope this helps explain my report.

  • Aaron

    Hi. Are you sure that Nature’s Variety Dehydrated Raw is intended for supplemental feeding only as the review above states? I think the only difference between the frozen and the dehydrated is that they freeze-dry @ low pressure instead of just frozen. Yet, your review of the frozen does not indicate that it is supplemental feeding only.

    Love the site and your reviews…


  • Louise


    Two other kibbles you might try for your picky Yorkie are Dogswell Nutrisca and Wellness Small Breed. Both excellent kibbles that my two extremely finicky chihuahuas love!

    Wellness Core is great — except that the kibbles are very big. My two chis has trouble eating them.

    If you are looking for a good canned food to put over/with the kibbles, Blue Buffalo makes a Small Breed canned that my two go crazy for!

  • Hi Amanda… Our Bailey is also a picky eater. That’s why we routinely mix his kibble with a wet food. This kind of feeding method is known as topping. However, since your dog doesn’t appear to like the different kibbles you mention, it just seems to defeat one of the most important benefits of topping by mixing two dry products together. If you like Nature’s Variety Raw, why not use their raw frozen (wet) product with your dog’s kibble? Or try using a quality canned food. Hope this helps.

  • Amanda

    Hi Mike, I have a 3 pound Yorkie. He is a VERY picky eater. So far I’ve tried: Bil Jac, RoyalK Yorkie, Natural Balance, and Amicus. I still haven’t had the luck to have a food that he likes. I’m thinking to switch to Wellness Core and mix some of this Freeze dried food in it. I have two concerns about this though.
    Will this freeze dried food mix well with it so that he doesn’t pick it out and leave the wellness kibble?
    Also I’ve heard that you shouldn’t mix the raw food with the processed food because one digests faster than the other. Is this true?
    Thanks for your time.

  • Hi Bev… Inulin is a good thing. It’s a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers (like chicory). Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.

    As I mention in my FAQ pages, “rosemary is frequently used in dog food as a natural anti-oxidant and preservative. It’s also considered an anti-cancer agent. However, we’ve never been able to find any scientific studies linking rosemary extract with seizures in dogs. We’ve only found mention of its potential relationship in humans. And then, only rarely in subjects prone to epileptic seizures in the first place.”

    Not sure about the other two. Probably there for their anti-oxidant capabilities, too.

  • Bev Thomas

    Noticed these “inulin, rosemary, sage, clove” were in the ingredient list above. Why would anyone add these to dog food Are good or bad for a dog to eat. Thank you.

  • Hi Dennis… Hypoglycemia is a condition of low blood sugar. It should not be confused with hyperglycemia or diabetes. If hypoglycemia is indeed a disease your dog suffers from, he needs to be under the management of a quality veterinary professional. Wish I could be more help.

  • Dennis

    Hi Mike, I have a 4lb. yorkie.Eighteen months old.Very,very finiky.Likes a food one day,not the next.I’m worried about him losing weight.Hypoglycemic(low sugar).I’ve been feeding him Dogswell Nutrisca,which is a low glycemic food.He seems to like it.In your opinion,is this the wrong food for him.It seems geared to dogs that are overweight.Also been looking at Natures Variety and Wellness.All foods are kibble.Your opinion please.

  • Hi Shelby… I’ve heard that one before myself. But so far, I’m unable to find any scientific reports to back those claims. Almost anything close to “fresh” (even canned food) can’t help but make a significant improvement to kibble.

  • Shelby

    Would it be ideal to mix this supplemental raw dog food with dog kibble?

    I’ve read that one should not do this because dogs digests the raw food much more quickly than dog kibble.

  • Hi Ann… As long as both foods meet AAFCO nutritional profiles, you should be just fine no matter how you proportion the two. Orijen is a 5-star food because it has good protein content. To see why we shamelessly prefer meat-rich dog foods, please be sure to see our FAQ page. Look for the topic, “Dog Food Protein”.

  • Ann Phillips

    -I would like to know if it’s ok to feed a dehydrated raw food in the am and Wellnesskibbles at night.
    -If there foods have everything in them the dog’s need then are we upsetting those combinations by adding our own additional items
    – I’ve heard that Origen has too much protein.


  • Hi Sherry… I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s cancer. And I can certainly understand how important it is for you to find a good food to help your dog get well. Unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinarian, you’ve asked a question I don’t feel qualified to answer. Although I’m sure there are specific dog foods that could help, we try to limit our reviews to reading and interpreting pet food labels only. We never attempt to judge the ability of any dog food to treat certain conditions or deliver specific health benefits.

    That said, my best recommendation would be to choose a 3, 4 or 5-star dog food that your dog enjoys and feed it in amounts designed to maintain a healthy weight. Be sure your choice is agreeable with your dog’s treating veterinarian. Hope this helps.

  • Sherry

    I feed my dog wellness core kibble and the canned stews. I just found out that she has cancer. Should I be changing anything in her diet to help her during her fight with cancer?

  • Hi Matt… It would be misleading (and untrue) for me to tell you we use the same combination of foods every time we feed Bailey. We prefer to rotate his menu periodically… so we use a different 4 or 5-star kibble and top it with a 4 or 5-star wet food.

  • matt

    What dog food do u use and what raw food toping do u give your dog?

  • Melissa

    Thank you so much Mike for the advice! She will love it!

  • Hi Melissa… We refer to the feeding method you’re using as “topping”. My Bailey is fed this way, too. We take a 5-star kibble and top it with a good quality canned food. You can also do this with a quality raw frozen food, too.

    Bailey gobbles it up… and the variety is good for him, too.

    Nothing is further from nature (and a dog’s natural ancestral diet) than a kibble. So there’s no need to question adding fresher meats to your dog’s meals.

    Your Golden/Lab mix is one lucky dog!

  • Melissa

    I have been feeding my Golden/Lab mix Wellness Core (dry) for quite a while. She likes this food but loves it when I mix with about two tablespoons of the Core (canned). I have thought about giving her a bit more variety in her diet and just as an extra healthy boost. I am considering giving her this food along with the Core. ( I would like to keep her on Core) Will this be too much for her stomach to handle? I do not want her stomach to get upset.

    Thanks so much!