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Instinct Dog Food Review 2024: My Honest Opinion

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Author Zoran Trifunovic
Zoran Trifunovic Writer
Updated on Apr 16th, 2024
Fact checked by Deborah Leigh

Overview

Instinct is a pet food brand focusing on raw meals. It has a variety of products suitable for dogs and cats. Beyond raw options, it also provides wet meals. What's more, Instinct has effective methods to ensure the safety of its raw meals. And its Safe Quality Food (SQF) Food Safety certification, which attests to its commitment to food safety standards, underscores that fact.

Customers appreciate that the company helps them transition their pets from other brands' foods. That's not all because the service provides handy tools. One helps you determine the best diet for your pup. The other calculates a daily calorie intake. 

But the provider has its share of downsides besides strengths. But it mostly depends on your viewpoint. So, continue reading my unbiased Instinct Dog Food Review to decide for yourself whether this service is a good choice. Along the way, you'll find recommended alternatives if you think that Instinct isn't the right fit for your hound.

Pros

Cons

A cost calculatorToo many additions might indicate poor quality
A wide range of productsThe Feeding Calculator should contain more current meal options
Options are available for all life stagesThe pet food brand has a history of recalls

Instinct Meals

The Instinct line consists primarily of raw meals and extras. Wet meals are also available. If you're looking for top-quality fresh meals, I'd recommend turning your attention to Nom Nom. Now let's take a look at Instinct's meals. 

Plans and Recipes

You'll find that Instinct caters to both woofers and mousers. When you visit its home page, you can select either canine or feline food. To explore the range of products, simply use the drop-down menu, where you'll find different types available before proceeding with your purchase. Instinct's home page

When you select the Dog drop-down menu, you have several options. You can either review each product type at a time or click on Explore Dog for a quick breakdown of them all. Note that the Raw Longevity Line at the top of the menu falls into more than 1 meal category. 

When you choose Explore Dog (or Explore Cat) on the Instinct website, you'll land on a page breaking down each product category. Select a meal type that interests you to view detailed information about the selected food. To browse recipes, click on the Learn More About... button. Instinct's home page

At the time of my Instinct Dog Food Review research, there were 6 product categories available. These were Frozen Raw Meals, Freeze-Dried Raw Meals, Raw + Kibble, Raw Toppers, Raw Coated Kibble, and Wet meals. Each has between several and dozens of options, depending on your choice. 

For example, if you click Freeze-Dried Raw Meals, you'll learn that the recipes in this category are shelf-stable. You'll also see that they contain no fillers, preservatives, or artificial colors. Moreover, the meals are minimally processed and contain real ingredients.

I landed on the product page when I clicked on Learn More About Freeze-Dried Raw Meals. There, I found that the product category features 2 sub-categories. These are Instinct Raw Longevity and Instinct Raw.  Freeze-Dried Instinct Long Longevity meals

You can click on the meal icon to review the recipe. What I noticed about these 2 freeze-dried raw meal types is that the Longevity line has options for all life stages. Instinct Raw is only for puppies and adult dogs up to 7 years old. Click on the dish you’re interested in to review it.

No matter what product type you choose, the same principle applies. But, if you'd like to explore a wider range of options through a convenient filtering system, select All Dog Products from the drop-down menu. It differs from Explore Dog in that it lists individual products rather than focusing on the features of each meal type. Instinct's All Dog Products page

You'll find 7 filtering options for dogs. These are Life Stage, Pet Needs, Protein, Food Type, Instinct Product Line, Grain Type, and Food Form. Some Protein choices are Salmon, Rabbit, Turkey, and Beef. Under Pet Needs, you'll see categories like Gut Health, Healthy Weight, and Skin & Coat Health. 

Instinct asserts that pet nutrition experts design its meals. It also stresses that its team boasts over 50 years of collective experience in pet food and nutrition. Moreover, the company collaborates with the DogRisk research program at the University of Helsinki, which investigates the effects of raw food on canine health.

Ingredients

Instinct includes proteins, fruits, vegetables, and grains, among other ingredients, in its meals. The proportion of these varies across different dishes. Also, the company enriches its recipes with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and fatty acids, among other nutritional elements.

The pet food brand sources its ingredients primarily from American suppliers. But, it also shops internationally to ensure the highest quality. For example, the brand gets lamb from New Zealand, where pasture-raised lamb is more abundant than in the U.S.

Some proteins Instinct includes in its meals are chicken, beef, pollock, lamb, rabbit, and cod. Spinach, broccoli, carrot, blueberries, cranberries, apples, and chicory root are some of the additions to various meals. 

The ingredients used in Instinct meals aren't classified as human grade. The company's facilities produce pet food that isn’t intended for human consumption. Still, the dog food company stresses that all the ingredients it sources come from USDA-inspected facilities and undergo testing to ensure quality and safety.

Certain Instinct meals have a higher protein content than others. For instance, the Raw Longevity freeze-dried beef and cod meal contains 88% animal meat, organs, and bones. The majority of the remaining 12% is vegetables and fruits. Also, the recipe includes taurine, probiotics, fiber, vitamins A and E, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The beef and cod are great for your pup’s muscles. Taurine supports the heart, while probiotics and fiber are beneficial for gut health and digestion, aiding in the absorption of vitamins and minerals that boost immunity. Also, fatty acids are crucial for healthy skin and shiny coats.

Apples help freshen your dog's breath and keep their teeth clean. Carrots support eye health and may help prevent gum disease. Fish oil offers several advantages, including relief from allergies and joint pain. Finally, blueberries act as natural antioxidants, protecting against cell damage.

Protein content varies between product types. For example, some of the raw foods I researched feature 86% protein, while raw-coated kibble contains 71% protein. If you want to feed your pup 100% raw, or as close to it as possible, I recommend We Feed Raw

During my research for the Instinct dog food review, I came across several concerns about the quality of this manufacturer's food. These mainly revolved around the excessive addition of vitamins and minerals, suggesting an overall poor quality. 

What's more, some concerns were about an overabundance of plant proteins. In brief, they're less digestible for dogs than animal proteins and may serve as cheaper substitutes for animal meat.

Nutrition

I looked closer at the nutritional information for the Raw Longevity Freeze-Dried Beef and Cod recipe. I focused on the details provided in the Guaranteed Analysis, and these are my findings:

  • Crude protein (min): 36%

  • Crude fat (min): 34%

  • Crude fiber (max): 4%

Instinct emphasizes that it minimally processes its meals, including its Raw Longevity line of meals. It doesn't cook food to remove pathogens but uses cold pressing (high-pressure processing). 

What Makes it Different

Instinct has a few useful on-site tools that help you tailor your woofer's mealtime. These are Food Recommender and Feeding Calculator. 

The Food Recommender considers various key parameters to determine the ideal food for your pets. For dogs, it asks about your canine's age (Puppy, Adult 1-6, and Adult 7+), breed size, and preferred protein, among other factors. Instinct's Food Recommender questionnaire

Another thing not commonly found among pet food delivery services is the feeding routine. As a puppy owner, I find this very helpful, although I'd never think of it as a key criterion for meal personalization. I just think that it should include more options since some pet owners prepare food for their pups all by themselves.  Instinct's feeding routine options

The Feeding Calculator uses specific criteria to determine your dog's daily caloric intake. First, it requires information about your dog's current and expected weight. Next, you'll need to specify whether your dog's current weight is ideal or your hound is underweight or overweight. Also, specify the type of food your pet eats currently. Instinct's Feeding Calculator

Note that the calculator may not be ideal if you're considering switching your pet to Instinct's food. This limitation arises because the calculator's "What food are you currently feeding?" question only includes options for Instinct's own products. So, if your pet's current diet involves meals from other providers, you won't be able to answer this question accurately.

Unboxing

Instinct is a pet food brand, not a meal delivery service. That means it doesn't ship products directly to customers. Instead, it supplies brick-and-mortar and online stores that sell its items to end users. Thus, how you receive shipments depends on the retailer you purchase from.

The way you store Instinct meals depends on their type. Store frozen raw meals in the freezer. Thaw raw meals for no more than 15 minutes before feeding, while raw patties need at least 4 hours to defrost. Keep freeze-dried meals on the shelf.

The shelf life of an unopened bag or frozen recipe is 1 year, or 2 in the case of freeze-dried meals, at most. Check the package for the exact product's end date. 

Ensure your pup eats raw food within 30 minutes of opening. Freeze-dried recipes are good for consumption 30 days after you open the bag if resealed. Kibbles are good to eat up to 3 months upon opening if you reseal them between meals. 

Prices

Prices of Instinct products depend on the retailer you buy items from. The company website doesn't have a price list or any reference to its products' costs.

Shipping & Delivery

Instinct doesn't sell its products directly to end users. As a result, the delivery schedule for its items depends entirely on the online or physical store you buy from.

Click on the Where To Buy button located in the website's header to search for nearby stores. After clicking, select either the US or Canada from the Country drop-down menu. You'll see on the right a search box where you can enter your city, town, or municipality and a map that shows stores in the neighborhood. The list of shops will be to the left of the map.  Instinct's Where to Buy page

You can choose the Shop Online option next to Find Nearby on the website to have items delivered. Among various providers, there will be Amazon, but I highly recommend Chewy. It has an extensive range of products for both dogs and cats that you might need. Moreover, its customer support is available 24/7 to assist you with any inquiries about delivery or other concerns.

How Instinct Works

You can create an account to get recommendations and feeding tips, although you cannot buy food for your pooch from Instinct directly. The registration procedure is simple and requires a few minutes of your time. 

How to Sign Up

  1. Select Login. When a side window appears, you can sign in if you have an account or register. 

Instinct's home page

  1. Create an account. Specify your name and email address among a few other details.

Creating an Instinct account

  1. Edit your pup's profile. Some info you'll have to provide is about its age, breed size, and current diet. 

Editing pet's profile on Instinct

  1. Set up your account. Enter your personal details, such as name, address, and email. 

Instinct account registration

  1. You can view the product guide upon registering an account. It contains various information about the company, its portfolio of products, and dietary info for canines and felines. 

And that's it, you've created an account. There are a few other details you can add when you create your account. Some of these are your role, if you work in the field, and your favorite pet food store (Chewy, in my case).

Managing Your Account

You can manage your and your pet's account by clicking on the Login button in the top-right corner of the screen. Once logged in, add another pet if you have one and didn't do so during signup. Also, you can update other account details, like changing your physical or email address, adding social media links, and more.

Customer Service

I contacted customer service to ask about plans for expanding the Raw Longevity Line to other meal types as part of my Instinct Dog Food Review. At the time of the review, this advanced line of meals was included in the Frozen Raw Meals, Freeze-Dried Raw Meals, and Raw + Kibble categories. Specifically, I asked whether it would also become part of the Wet category.

Shortly after sending my email inquiry, I received an automated response from Instinct. The message indicated that its team was away for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Fortunately, my request wasn't urgent, so I'll wait for the response after the holidays. An inquiry and Instinct Pet Food's automated response

You can contact Instinct Pet Food's customer service in 3 ways. These are email, a contact form, and phone. Note that the company doesn't have a live chat option, which I found a bit surprising. Live chat is a user-friendly and efficient means of communication, and it's commonly provided by many pet food services. 

You'll need to fill out about a dozen fields to submit an inquiry through Instinct's contact form. That's far more than what many other services require. This is one of the reasons I chose to send an email instead. But, my question was general. In my understanding, Instinct requires detailed information about you to provide the most accurate and helpful response. Instinct Pet Food's Contact Form

You can send an email to [email protected]. If you prefer talking to an agent, call at 888-519-7387. The customer care service's hours of operation are from 8 am to 5 pm CT, Monday to Friday. 

Consult the FAQ section on Instinct's website for answers to general questions. These pertain to various topics, including ingredients and storage. While I find the answers concise and to the point, this section is not as comprehensive as many others I have reviewed.

Instinct Recalls

Instinct has had several recalls in the past, but none have occurred since 2015. Up until December 2023, when I conducted my research for the Instinct Dog Food Review, the recall history included 2 recalls in 2010 and 1 recall each in 2012, 2013, and 2015. 

I know that past recalls can cause a lot of concern among pet parents. If you're 1 of them, I suggest you check out our Best Dog Food With No Recalls guide, which introduces a few raw pet food providers among others. 

How Instinct Compares to Other Pet Food Providers

Instinct vs. The Farmer’s Dog: The Farmer's Dog offers fresh meals, while Instinct specializes in raw food, along with wet meals. The Farmer's Dog focuses on quality over quantity, with many satisfied pet owners noting a positive impact on their canine's health. The company has an on-site meal customization quiz that considers various factors, including your pet's health, energy level, and age.

Instinct vs. Ollie: Ollie differs from Instinct The Raw Brand by offering fresh and baked meals. The company also features a meal customization quiz and 3 plans to suit various dietary needs and budgets. Also, you can buy treats and supplements from Ollie, as well as conduct your hound’s health screening.

Instinct vs. We Feed Raw: We Feed Raw has 6 raw recipes as opposed to dozens of Instinct's recipes. But We Feed Raw meals consist of animal proteins entirely, making them easier to digest. What's more, you can tailor your pup's mealtime with We Feed Raw by taking an on-site meal personalization quiz. And We Feed Raw doesn't have a recall history. 

The Bottom Line: Is Instinct Dog Food Worth It?

Instinct may be a good choice for pet owners who feed their dogs raw meals. The company produces a wide variety of products that cater to different tastes and generally have a long shelf life. The brand's retail network is extensive, covering most US states and many cities. For added convenience, you can also buy Instinct products from various online stores.

Check other options if you're feeding your woofer fresh or dry meals as Instinct specializes in raw food. Pet parents concerned about the overall quality due to Instinct's past recall history, despite no recent incidents, may want to explore other providers. Also, if you prefer customizing meals based on your dog's unique dietary needs, you should definitely seek a different supplier.

FAQ

Is Instinct a good pet food brand?

Instinct is regarded as a good pet food brand, particularly for its wide variety of raw meals, catering to different dietary preferences. But, some pet parents might have concerns about the quality due to the brand's recall history. What's more, some people consider the inclusion of many extras in its meals to be an indicator of lower quality.

What is the number 1 healthiest dog food?

The Farmer's Dog is the number 1 healthiest dog food option to many customers and experts. It stands out for its use of fresh, whole ingredients and its commitment to tailored nutrition, catering to the specific health needs of individual dogs.

Does Instinct dog food have any recalls?

Yes, Instinct dog food has had recalls in the past. Its recall history includes instances before 2015, but there have been no recalls since then.

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