Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.
The Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet product line includes 5 dry 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 LID with Real Duck [M]
- Instinct LID with Real Turkey [M]
- Instinct LID with Real Salmon [M]
- Instinct LID with Real Lamb (3.5 stars) [M]
- Instinct LID Small Breed with Real Turkey (5 stars) [M]
Instinct Limited Ingredient with Real Duck was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nature's Variety Instinct LID with Real Duck
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Duck meal, peas, tapioca, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), duck, montmorillonite clay, natural flavor, coconut oil, choline chloride, potassium chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), freeze dried duck (including freeze dried ground duck bone), pumpkinseeds, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||30%||19%||43%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||25%||39%||36%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is duck meal. Duck meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh duck.
The second 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 third ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.
The fourth ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.
Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
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 fifth ingredient is duck. Although it is a quality item, raw duck 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 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).
After the natural flavor, we find coconut oil, a natural oil rich in medium-chain fatty acids.
Medium-chain triglycerides have been shown to improve cognitive function in older dogs.1
Because of its proven safety2 as well as its potential to help in the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and chronic skin disorders, MCT can be considered a positive addition to this recipe.
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 no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
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
Limited Ingredient Diet Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 31% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 42% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a notable amount of meat.
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet is a plant-based dry dog food using a notable amount of named meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 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.
Nature’s Variety Dog Food
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.
- 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)
Readers interested in Instinct Limited Ingredient dry dog food may also wish to check out these popular pages, too…
Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
02/12/2018 Last Update
- Pan Y et al, Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs, British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 12, June 2010, pp 1746-1754 ↩
- Matulka RA et al, Lack of toxicity by medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in canines during a 90-day feeding study,Food Chem Toxicol, Jan 2009, 47(1) 35-9. ↩