Instinct Dog Food Review – Dogs Naturally

Instinct was founded in 2002, and has its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s owned by Nature’s Variety, an independent pet food company with manufacturing facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nature’s Variety owns and manages the Instinct and Prairie brands. Instinct is a full line of grain-free and gluten-free foods for dogs and cats. 

Nature’s Variety was acquired by Agrolimen SA in 2016 but planned to operate as a stand-alone company. 

For our Instinct dog food review, we’ll look at the food ingredient quality and safety of each line of food. Our dog food reviews are based on these criteria.

Instinct Original Kibble Dog Food

Score: 5.2/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, herring meal, menhaden fish meal, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), carrots, apples, cranberries, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), potassium chloride, montmorillonite clay, taurine, choline chloride, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, freeze dried chicken heart, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Original Kibble is considered a moderate risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High In Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in this line average 23% as calculated, lower than most of the other Instinct kibble recipes. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate but starch is required for extrusion in dry foods like these. Excessive carbohydrates are an indicator of low quality foods as they are used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. 

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Contains Plant Protein

Plant proteins are also used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Original Kibble:

Ultra-Processed 

On the ingredient safety side, this line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Natural Flavor

Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Benefits

There is one noteworthy benefit of this food:

Probiotics

It’s good to see these foods contain probiotics and that they guarantee the colony forming units (CFUs). This measure determines the number of bacterial cells in a probiotic.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct Original Wet

Instinct Original Wet Dog Food

Score: 6.6/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Original Real Rabbit Recipe: Rabbit, pork, pork liver, pork broth, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, peas, carrots, potassium chloride, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, cobalt proteinate, potassium iodide), menhaden fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, tricalcium phosphate, artichokes, cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Original Wet is considered a moderate risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola or sunflower oil, oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Original Wet:

Highly Processed 

Canned foods are heated before and during canning, which will cause significant losses in some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

Some of the 

recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

instinct limited ingredient kibble

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Kibble  

Score: 4.3/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Salmon Recipe: Salmon meal, salmon, peas, tapioca, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), montmorillonite clay, natural flavor, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, coconut oil, vitamins (l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, vitamin e supplement, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin a supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin b12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin d3 supplement, biotin), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), freeze dried cod, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Limited Ingredient Dry is considered a high risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High In Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in this line average 36% as calculated which is excessive. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate but starch is required for extrusion in dry foods like these. Excessive carbohydrates are an indicator of low quality foods as they are used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets also lead to a lower protein diet.

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Limited Ingredient Kibble:

Ultra-Processed 

On the ingredient safety side, this line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Natural Flavor

Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct Limited Ingredient Wet

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Wet

Score: 6.3/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Lamb Recipe: Lamb, lamb broth, lamb liver, pea protein, peas, montmorillonite clay, sunflower oil, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, cobalt proteinate, potassium iodide), salt, choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Limited Ingredient Wet is considered a moderate risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola or sunflower oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Contains Plant Protein

Plant proteins are also used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Limited Ingredient Wet:

Highly Processed 

Canned foods are heated before and during canning, which will cause significant losses in some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Benefits

Here is a noteworthy benefit of this food:

No GMO Ingredients

This is a non-GMO verified line, which is good to see. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

instinct be natural kibble

Instinct Be Natural Kibble

Score: 5.2/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Original Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, herring meal, menhaden fish meal, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), carrots, apples, cranberries, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), potassium chloride, montmorillonite clay, taurine, choline chloride, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, pumpkinseeds, freeze dried chicken heart, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Be Natural Kibble is considered a high risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High In Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in this line average 39% as calculated which is excessive to see in a dry dog food. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate but starch is required for extrusion in dry foods like these. Excessive carbohydrates are an indicator of low quality foods as they are used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets also lead to a lower protein diet.

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Be Natural Kibble:

Ultra-Processed 

On the ingredient safety side, this line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

GMO Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

Recipes in this line contain known GMO crops in the top 5 ingredients that include alfalfa. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off. 

Natural Flavor

Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Rice

The use of rice in several recipes costs food safety points because of potential arsenic contamination. Arsenic contamination is a significant concern with rice since it naturally absorbs arsenic that  can contaminate the water it’s grown in. Arsenic is linked to chronic health issues.  

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw boost

Instinct Raw Boost Kibble

Score: 4.8/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw Boost Real Salmon Recipe: Salmon, white fish meal (pacific whiting, pacific sole, pacific rockfish), peas, menhaden fish meal, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), herring meal, chickpeas, pea protein, natural flavor, freeze dried beef, tapioca, freeze dried beef liver, pumpkinseeds, freeze dried beef heart, dried tomato pomace, freeze dried beef kidney, freeze dried beef spleen, montmorillonite clay, carrots, apples, cranberries, vitamins (L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), choline chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), freeze dried cod, dried kelp, salmon oil, blueberries, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw Boost Kibble is considered a high risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are several concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High In Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in this line average 29% as calculated which is excessive to see in a dry dog food. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate but starch is required for extrusion in dry foods like these. Excessive carbohydrates are an indicator of low quality foods as they are used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets also lead to a lower protein diet.

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola oil, which is a highly processed and highly inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Contains Plant Protein

Plant proteins are also used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Be Natural Dry:

Ultra-Processed 

On the ingredient safety side, this line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

GMO Foods 

Recipes in this line contain known GMO crops that include alfalfa. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off. 

Natural Flavor

Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Rice

The use of rice in several recipes costs food safety points because of potential arsenic contamination. Arsenic contamination is a significant concern with rice since it naturally absorbs arsenic which can contaminate the water it’s grown in. Arsenic is linked to chronic health issues.  

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw frozen

Instinct Raw Frozen

Score: 8.4/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw Frozen Bites Grass-Fed Lamb Recipe: Lamb, beef liver, beef kidney, beef spleen, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, montmorillonite clay, ground miscanthus grass, ground flaxseed, tricalcium phosphate, salmon oil, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), salt, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), blueberries, spinach

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw Frozen is considered a low risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are a couple concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

Moderately High In Carbohydrate

The carbohydrates average 16% as calculated on a dry matter basis. This is a bit high for a raw food. The carbohydrates primarily come from fruits and vegetables which can be high in carbohydrates. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. 

Excessive Added Minerals 

When minerals come from whole food sources, they include the full spectrum of cofactors, which makes them safe and bioavailable. While a couple of added minerals are acceptable, five or more implies the food is of poor nutritional value.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Raw Frozen:

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Benefits 

Here is a noteworthy benefit of this food:

No GMO Ingredients

This is a non-GMO verified line, which is good to see. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw freeze-dried

Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals

Score: 8.6/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw Freeze-Dried Meals Cage-Free Chicken Puppy Recipe: Chicken (including ground chicken bone), beef liver, beef spleen, beef kidney, cod, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, montmorillonite clay, ground miscanthus grass, ground flaxseed, salmon oil, pumpkinseed, chicory root, tricalcium phosphate, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), mixed tocopherols (for freshness), blueberries, spinach, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw Freeze-Dried is considered a low risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there is a concern when it comes to ingredient quality:

Moderately High In Carbohydrate

The carbohydrates in this line average 16% as calculated. This is a little higher than expected for a freeze-dried food. The carbohydrates primarily come from fruits and vegetables which can be high in carbohydrates. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. 

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Raw Freeze-Dried:

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients

These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Benefits 

Here is a noteworthy benefit of this food:

No GMO Ingredients

This is a non-GMO verified line, which is good to see. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw longevity frozen

Instinct Raw Longevity Frozen

Score: 7.8/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw Longevity Frozen Patties Farm-Raised Rabbit Recipe: Rabbit (including ground rabbit bone), pork liver, pork heart, pork fat, ground pork bone, yellow squash, apples, carrots, ground miscanthus grass, montmorillonite clay, ground flaxseed, rabbit liver, fish oil, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, cranberries, rabbit lung, rabbit kidney, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), potassium chloride, salt, yeast culture, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw Longevity Frozen is considered a low risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are a couple concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

Moderately High In Carbohydrate

The carbohydrates vary in this line from 12% to 20% as calculated on a dry matter basis. Anything above 15% is a bit high for a raw frozen food. The carbohydrates primarily come from fruits and vegetables that are high in carbohydrates. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. 

Excessive Added Minerals 

When minerals come from whole food sources, they include the full spectrum of cofactors, which makes them safe and bioavailable. While a couple of added minerals are acceptable, five or more implies the food is of poor nutritional value.

Contains Plant Protein

Plant proteins are also used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Raw Longevity Frozen:

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods 

These recipes contain ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Benefits

Here are some noteworthy benefits of these foods:

Probiotics

It’s good to see these recipes contain probiotics and that they guarantee the colony forming units (CFUs). This measure determines the number of bacterial cells in a probiotic.

No GMO Ingredients

This is a non-GMO verified line, which is good to see. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw longevity 20% freeze dried

Instinct Raw Longevity 100% Freeze-Dried Raw Meals

Score: 8/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw 100% Longevity Freeze-Dried Raw Meals Grass-Fed Beef & Wild Caught Cod Recipe: Beef, beef liver, beef kidney, beef spleen, beef heart, ground cod, yellow squash, apples, carrots, ground miscanthus grass, ground flaxseed, montmorillonite clay, fish oil, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, cranberries, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement), potassium chloride, salt, yeast culture, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, mixed tocopherols (for freshness), rosemary extract, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product.

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw 100% Longevity Freeze-Dried is considered a low risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are a couple concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

Excessive Added Minerals 

When minerals come from whole food sources, they include the full spectrum of cofactors, which makes them safe and bioavailable. While a couple of added minerals are acceptable, five or more implies the food is of poor nutritional value.

Unnamed Animal Protein

Unnamed animal ingredients are often less expensive ingredients as any type of fish or animal can be used or they can be made from rendered waste of many proteins. 

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Raw 100% Longevity Freeze-Dried:

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods 

These recipes contain ingredients in the top 5 that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Benefits

Here are some noteworthy benefits of these foods:

Probiotics

It’s good to see these that these reipes contain probiotics and that they guarantee the colony forming units (CFUs). This measure determines the number of bacterial cells in a probiotic.

No GMO Ingredients

This is a non-GMO verified line, which is good to see. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

Low Carbohydrates

It’s good to see low carbohydrates in raw, air-dried, freeze-dried or dehydrated dog food. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. 

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Instinct raw longevity 20% freeze dried

Instinct Raw Longevity 20% Freeze-Dried Raw Meal Blend

Score: 5.2/10

Package Ingredients For Instinct Raw Longevity 20% Freeze-Dried Raw Meal Cage-Free Chicken Recipe: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), tapioca, freeze dried beef, freeze dried beef kidney, freeze dried beef spleen, freeze dried beef liver, herring meal, menhaden fish meal, natural flavor, freeze dried beef heart, dried tomato pomace, pumpkinseeds, salt, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), apples, carrots, tricalcium phosphate, montmorillonite clay, cranberries, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), butternut squash, salmon oil, taurine, cod liver oil, dried kelp, yeast culture, choline chloride, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, freeze dried chicken heart, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Using our evaluation criteria, Instinct Raw Longevity 20% Freeze-Dried Raw is considered a moderate risk dog food. Here are our concerns:

Ingredient Quality

Overall, there are a few concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High In Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates in this line average 22% as calculated which is excessive for this dry + freeze-dried dog food. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate but starch is required for extrusion in dry foods like these. Excessive carbohydrates are an indicator of low quality foods as they are used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets can also lead to a lower protein diet. 

Excessive Added Vitamins and Minerals

This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Added Amino Acids

Protein from animals is more complete in amino acids than protein from plants – plus it’s more expensive. Foods with lower amounts of animal protein often need to add amino acids to compensate, so 2 or more added amino acids can be a marker of cheap, lower quality ingredients.

Contains Seed Oil

Some of these recipes contain canola oil, which is a highly processed and inflammatory oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.

Ingredient Safety

Many pet food ingredients are unsafe or are grown using unsafe chemicals. Here are some of the issues with Instinct Raw 20% Longevity Freeze-Dried Raw:

Ultra-Processed 

On the ingredient safety side, this line is essentially a dry dog food so it loses significant points for being ultra-processed. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods 

These recipes contain ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Unless organic, when crops are spray-dried with Roundup, it leaves them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases. 

Natural Flavor

Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Benefits

Here are some noteworthy benefits of these foods:

Probiotics

It’s good to see these that these recipes contain probiotics and that they guarantee the colony forming units (CFUs). This measure determines the number of bacterial cells in a probiotic.

View The Entire Review on Dog Food Reviews 

Is Instinct A Good Dog Food? 

Instinct offers 11 brands of dry, wet, frozen and freeze-dried dog food. The freeze-dried and frozen foods are considered low risk with the other foods rated as moderate or high risk.

The company states that its raw recipes are made with non-GMO fruits and vegetables. The company is transparent and states they don’t certify their foods as organic as they can’t confirm the diets of their food animals. Most of the ingredients are sourced domestically. They source grass-fed lamb from New Zealand.

Instinct’s 2 freeze-dried lines score well and are considered low risk dog foods. Raw Meals Freeze-Dried and Raw Longevity 100% Freeze-Dried are minimally processed which means minimal loss of nutrients. They have a low level of carbohydrates obtained from fruits and vegetables rather than grains and starches. Raw Frozen scores a bit lower because of its higher level of carbohydrates.

Within the wet recipes, most have higher average carbohydrates than competing brands. Dry recipes are also high in carbohydrates but that’s to be expected in kibble. Instinct points out on its labeling and on its website that recipes do not contain grain, potato, corn, wheat or soy but they do include peas, tapioca and chickpeas which are starches that contribute to the high carbohydrate level. 

There are Limited Ingredient Dry recipes and Limited Ingredient Wet Recipes. While it’s commendable that they try to restrict ingredients to support dogs with sensitivities, these foods contain a few food ingredients followed by a lengthy list of synthetic additives. Whenever possible it’s preferable to see nutrients that come from whole foods.

Instinct offers several specialty lines. Raw Longevity 20% Freeze-Dried has the addition of 20% freeze dried foods, Be Natural is kibble coated with freeze-dried raw, and Raw Boost is kibble plus freeze-dried poultry, beef or fish. Essentially these combine ultra-processed kibble with some freeze-dried ingredients but ingredient quality and ingredient safety scores reflect kibble, which is the main component. The added freeze-dried ingredients may raise the protein levels somewhat in these lines. 

There are additional concerns with the food and marketing. These don’t affect the Instinct dog food reviews score, but they’re worth mentioning:

Glam Ingredients

Some Instinct recipes contain glam ingredients. These are expensive or desirable ingredients like blueberries, kale or apples often added to appeal to consumers but may be in minuscule amounts. They contribute little or no nutritional value to your dog. 

Ingredient Splitting

This is a technique of splitting ingredients into sub-categories to move certain ingredients higher or lower on the ingredient list. This is often used to disguise the amount of lower quality ingredients in the food, such as corn, potatoes or peas, and moves desirable ingredients, like proteins, higher.

Coconut Oil

The use of coconut oil doesn’t cost points but it should be noted that it may be harmful to gut health as it’s been shown to cause undesirable changes in the gut lining. 

Unsubstantiated Marketing Terms

Unsubstantiated marketing terms are used on labels such as free-range, grass-fed or humanely-raised. Without third-party certification, they are purely marketing terms that have no legal meaning under pet food regulatory standards.

Does Not Provide Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio

It’s also worth noting that Instinct does not state the omega6:omega-3 ratio in their foods. While this is true of most foods, AAFCO allows a very inflammatory limit of 30:1. Diets rich in omega-6 fats can cause chronic inflammation and disease.

Does Not State Farmed Vs Wild Caught Fish

These foods don’t specify whether the fish is farmed or wild caught. Farmed fish is less nutritious than wild caught fish and does not contain the same healthy fatty acid balance

INSTINCT DOG FOOD RECALLS

To date there have been no recalls of Instinct dog foods

Evaluation Criteria

We evaluate and score dog foods based on two criteria:

Are the Ingredients High Quality?

Here are some common low quality ingredients or markers we look for:

  • Is there excessive carbohydrate content, which can cause gut imbalances?
  • Does the food contain unnamed proteins, which are low quality?
  • Does the food use cellulose (wood pulp) as a source of fiber instead of real food?
  • Are there excessive vitamins and minerals added in place of real food nutrition?
  • Are there excessive added amino acids or plant proteins instead of expensive meat protein?
  • Does the food contain inflammatory processed seed oils?

How Safe Are the Ingredients?

Many ingredients come from unhealthy, inflammatory sources or are full of pesticides so we look for:

  • How processed is the food?
  • Does the food contain known genetically modified foods?
  • Does the food contain ingredients known to be high in pesticides?
  • Does the food contain natural flavor, which are often MSG or animal digest?
  • Does the food contain rice, which is high in arsenic?

Each food is objectively evaluated by these criteria and a score is assigned using the average of ingredient quality and safety. This is NOT a paid list and there are no affiliate links. Dogs Naturally has partnered with DogFoodReviews.com to make sure dog owners have unbiased, objective criteria to help them choose the best dog food on the market. You can view the full Evaluation Criteria at DogFoodReviews.com.

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