Nature’s Variety Instinct Original canned dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Instinct Original product line includes 8 canned dog foods.
Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.
Use links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.
- Instinct Original Beef [A]
- Instinct Original Rabbit [A]
- Instinct Original Beef and Venison [A]
- Instinct Original Lamb (3 stars) [A]
- Instinct Original Chicken (3 stars) [A]
- Instinct Original Beef Small Breed (4 stars) [A]
- Instinct Original Chicken Small Breed (4 stars) [A]
- Instinct Original Puppy [G]
Instinct Original Beef and Venison Recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Instinct Original Beef and Venison Recipe
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Beef, venison, beef broth, beef liver, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, peas, carrots, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, cobalt proteinate, potassium iodide), menhaden fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), salt, choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin A supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid), l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 13.6%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||55%||34%||3%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||39%||59%||2%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Beef is defined as “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle” and includes skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1
Beef is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second ingredient is venison, another quality ingredient.
The third ingredient is beef broth. Broths are of only modest nutritional value. Yet because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food, they are a common component in many canned products.
The fourth ingredient is beef liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.
The fifth 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 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 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.
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 two notable exceptions…
First, we find menhaden oil. Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. Their oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids, two high quality fats boasting the highest bio-availability to both dogs and humans.
What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not as likely to be exposed to mercury contamination as is typical with deep water species.
And lastly, this recipe includes 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 Original
Canned Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Instinct Original 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 46% and a mean fat level of 29%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 18% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 63%.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
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.
However, with 59% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 39% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Instinct Original is a grain-free canned dog food using a significant amount of named meats as its main source 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 Instinct dry dog food.
Nature’s Variety Dog Food
The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to Nature’s Variety. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.
- 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)
A Final Word
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
Notes and Updates
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩
07/08/2019 Last Update