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Instinct Dog Food Review 2023: Recalls, Pros & Cons

Instinct Dog Food - Featured Image

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Review Summary

Our Final Verdict

We give Instinct dog food a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. 


Instinct dog food is made by Nature’s Variety, a brand that’s been in operation since 2002 and specializes in holistic pet food. None of its formulas contains wheat, corn, by-product meals or artificial colors or flavors.

The Instinct Raw Boost line is one of the brand’s most popular, which combines kibble with pieces of freeze-dried raw meat. This is for safety and to allow owners to provide the perceived benefits of raw without committing to a full lifestyle change. This food has advantages and disadvantages, which you can check out in this review.


At a Glance: The Best Instinct Dog Food Recipes:

Image Product Details
Our Favorite
Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Beef Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Beef
  • High protein
  • Fatty acids and antioxidants
  • No artificial ingredients or by-products
  • Second place
    Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken
  • Real chicken and raw chicken bites
  • US-made
  • Grain-free
  • Third place
    Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Chicken Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Chicken
  • Real chicken and raw chicken bites
  • US-made
  • Wide variety of fruit and vegetable ingredients
  • Instinct Be Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Instinct Be Natural Chicken & Brown Rice
  • Grain-inclusive formula
  • Brown rice
  • No fillers, by-products, or artificial ingredients
  • Instinct Original Natural Wet Dog Food Instinct Original Natural Wet Dog Food
  • Wet food, high in moisture
  • Grain-free
  • Protein from Chicken and Turkey
  • Instinct Dog Food Reviewed

    Who makes Instinct and where is it produced?

    Instinct is made by Nature’s Variety, a pet food company owned by the Barcelona-based Agrolimen company. Nature’s Variety has manufacturing facilities in Lincoln, NE, and headquarters in St. Louis, MO. The company focuses on natural, raw, and grain-free foods for dogs and cats in both dry and wet varieties.

    Which type of dog is Instinct best suited for?

    Instinct formulas provide whole and balanced nutrition for adult maintenance diets and offer formulas for puppies or different dietary needs. The line is grain-free and features freeze-dried raw pieces, which may be appealing to most dogs. Active dogs will likely thrive with Instinct foods.

    Brown bulldog eating from a bowl
    Image Credit: Rawpixel

    Which type of dog might do better with a different brand?

    If you’re concerned about feeding a raw diet or your dog wouldn’t do well with raw or grain-free food, this may not be the best choice for you. Be sure to speak with your vet about whether this food is appropriate for your dog or if you have concerns about feeding raw or grain-free diets.

    Discussion of the Primary Ingredients (Good and Bad)

    Instinct offers a good balance of ingredients and nutrients, such as animal protein from deboned meat, meal, and fat. The carbohydrates primarily come from peas and tapioca. You’ll also find chicken heart, chicken liver, fish meal, and other animal protein sources to create the raw bites.

    australian shepherd dog eating, steel bowl
    Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

    Animal Protein Sources

    Regardless of recipe, the animal protein sources in Instinct foods come from high-quality sources like deboned meat, meals, and organ meats. No questionable by-products from unknown sources with unknown food safety standards.

    High-Protein Recipes

    With so many animal protein sources, it’s expected that Instinct recipes boast a lot of protein. This is ideal for active dogs but may not be ideal for all dogs. Excess protein may be stored as fat, which contributes to obesity. In addition, some dogs with medical conditions may be harmed by diets that are too high in protein.

    a dog eating on a bowl
    Image Credit: Mart Production, Pexels

    Freeze-Dried Raw Still Has Risks

    While high-pressure processed and freeze-dried raw meat and animal products are generally regarded as safer than handling the raw meat yourself, there are still contamination risks. If you handle your dog’s food, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. You should also clean anything that comes in contact with the raw bits, such as the counter, food scoop, dog bowls, and floor where your dog eats.

    Grain-Free Is Not Always Appropriate

    Dogs evolved alongside humans and adapted to many of the same foods we eat, so they do best with a diet consisting of protein, fat and healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can come from vegetable and fruit sources, but they can also come from grain-based sources like rice or wheat. Consider whether a grain-free diet is appropriate for your dog.

    Instinct does make a line of natural dog food that includes high-quality grains like brown rice, which is a good way to get the benefits of the brand in a more appropriate food formula.


    A Quick Look at Instinct Dog Food

    • High in protein
    • No fillers or artificial ingredients
    • Appetizing raw bites
    • Range of products
    • Pricey
    • Requires stringent cleaning for food safety
    • Fewer grain-inclusive options

    Recall History

    Instinct has been recalled several times spanning from 2010 to 2015. It was also one of the brands discussed in the FDA investigation into grain-free diets and a possible link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

    divider-dog paw

    Reviews of the 3 Best Instinct Dog Food Recipes

    1. Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Beef & Freeze-Dried Raw Pieces Dry Dog Food

    Instinct Raw Boost

    This dog food features real beef and freeze-dried raw pieces made of USA-raised beef. In addition to being a high-protein formula, this recipe has probiotics to support digestive health and high levels of omega-fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin. It also has antioxidants for immune health. There are no grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, by-product meals, soy, artificial colors, or preservatives. Though many dogs will find the raw pieces appetizing, it may not be appropriate or tasty to all dogs. It was also a little expensive.

    • High protein
    • Fatty acids and antioxidants
    • No artificial ingredients or by-product meals
    • Grain-free may not be suitable for all dogs
    • Some dogs don’t like it
    • Expensive

    2. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Dog Food


    Instinct Original Grain-Free Dog Food

    This chicken recipe combines real deboned chicken with fish meal protein sources in their raw coated kibble. Vegetables, probiotics, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants round out the diet for complete and balanced nutrition. Like other Instinct recipes, this recipe is made with premium ingredients in a US-based facility, and contains no grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, or artificial colors and preservatives. This is only a grain-free option with raw bites, however, and it’s a little expensive.

    • Real chicken and raw chicken bites
    • US-made
    • Wide variety of fruit and vegetable ingredients
    • Grain-free and raw only
    • Pricey

    3. Instinct Be Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Freeze-Dried Raw PiecesDry Dog Food

    Instinct by Instinct Be Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Freeze

    If you want a grain-inclusive formula with the same benefits of Instinct brand food, the Be Natural line is a good solution. This recipe features freeze-dried raw bites and real chicken with brown rice for whole and balanced nutrition. This recipe uses rice as the primary grain source, but contains no fillers, wheat, corn, chicken by-product meal, or artificial colors or preservatives. It’s made in the US with ingredients sourced from trusted retailers. This formula is also a little expensive and uses raw bites.

    • Grain-inclusive formula
    • Brown rice
    • No fillers, by-products, or artificial ingredients
    • Expensive
    • Only available with freeze-dried raw pieces

    What Other Users Are Saying

    Wondering how users (and their pets) like the food? Take a look:

    • Chewy – “If you look at ingredients, this is some of the best stuff out there, and those freeze-dried raw chunks are a ‘No Brainer.’”
    • Petsmart “My dogs switched from Purina to this and they are doing so much better! Simpler ingredients and they lost healthy weight!”
    • Amazon – As pet owners, we always double-check with Amazon reviews from buyers before we buy something. Take a look at what Amazon users said.



    Instinct is a good dog food brand that’s made by Nature’s Variety. Based in the US, the company focuses on natural, holistic pet food free from fillers and artificial ingredients. Most recipes are grain-free and contain freeze-dried raw pieces, which may not be appropriate for all dogs. There are a few grain-inclusive recipes, however.

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