Instinct, formally known as “Instinct, The Raw Brand”, provides some of the highest quality pet foods in the world. This is evident not only through their ingredient quality and sourcing, but also in the processes and science used to produce their final product. That’s why I decided to write this Instinct raw dog food review.

Instinct was previously known as Nature’s Variety.

What is Frozen Raw Dog Food?

Frozen raw foods are commonly available in half-pound burger-sized patties, medium-sized medallions, or smaller bite-sized morsels, which are composed entirely of raw ingredients. 

Frozen raw diets are the least processed pet foods on the market, and are among the most nutrient-dense diets available to pet owners. High quality frozen raw pet foods recreate a wild dog’s natural, optimal diet, without the threat of parasites, harmful bacteria, and more.

Is Frozen Raw Dog Food Safe?

Initially, many pet owners express concern regarding the safety of raw food feeding, citing potential cross contamination of bacteria as the primary reason. Fortunately, with brands like Instinct, this bacterial risk is less than preparing a meat-based dinner for your two-legged family members. This is largely thanks to Instinct’s cold pressure technology, known as high pressure processing (HPP), which removes bad bacteria while retaining nutrient integrity and quality. This state of the art technology is a USDA-recognized anti-pathogen treatment.

The Benefits of Feeding Instinct Frozen Raw

Frozen raw pet foods have significantly grown in popularity over the last decade, as pet owners continue to become more educated about pet nutrition and responsible pet ownership.

A recent joint study between Instinct and Helsinki University spent 10 years thoroughly studying the effects of raw diets on canine health. Included in this study were 16,000 dogs, with virtually all breeds, shapes, and sizes represented.

According to this study, 7% of puppies fed a raw diet developed environmental allergies as adults, versus 19% in those who were fed kibble; meaning puppies fed a kibble-based diet are 200-300% more likely to develop environmental allergies as adults. 

These findings demonstrate that raw diets have a significant impact on the immune system, creating a foundation of good health that carries into adulthood.

Research continues by this group, and they’re working diligently to better understand how raw diets affect common health problems in pets, including hip dysplasia and mobility issues, gastrointestinal and stomach issues, chronic ear infections, and also various types of cancers and tumors.

Instinct Frozen Raw Dog Food Feeding Trial

Recently, we put Instinct’s frozen raw dog food to the test with Bodhi, a 3 year old white German Shepherd. 

Bodhi has suffered from a number of ailments since puppyhood, specifically itchy, inflamed skin, particularly on his rear legs. It was unclear what was causing Bodhi’s unrelenting itchiness, be it food-related or environmental. 

Since puppyhood, Bodhi has always been a very picky eater, and has a difficult time maintaining his optimal weight. Aside from the skin issues and weight problems, he was examined by a veterinarian and deemed to be in very good health prior to starting his Instinct raw food trial.

Bodhi’s raw feeding trial lasted for 6 weeks. During this time, he ate nothing other than the Instinct frozen raw dog food patties. We focused on less common proteins such as rabbit and lamb, as more common proteins like chicken and beef are often considered higher risk proteins for dogs with allergy symptoms from undefined sources.

Feeding Trial Results

It is important to note that, prior to starting this trial, Bodhi was eating a super premium, Canadian-made brand of dry kibble, and had never previously been fed a raw diet.

Here’s are the results from Bodhi’s six week feeding trial:

Skin and Coat Improvement

Bodhi’s itching and scratching improved significantly during his feeding trial. Prior to going on Instinct frozen raw, Bodhi’s hind legs were becoming barren in spots from excessive licking and chewing, showing enlarging areas of red, irritated skin. Shortly after his diet was changed to raw, the irritated areas on his legs almost entirely disappeared as he began to chew and lick at these areas less frequently. 

Most surprisingly, Bodhi’s coat thickness almost doubled during his feeding trial. The bald patches on his legs began to fill in. The fur on his upper thighs became thicker, longer, and more vibrant looking. The fur lining his neck, prosternum, and behind his ears also thickened and lengthened substantially. Plus, his tail became bushier.

At first, I was worried that this new fur growth would result in more shedding around the house, however to my surprise he was shedding less!

Weight Gain

Anyone with a young and highly active German Shepherd Dog will tell you how hard it can be to get them to gain weight – especially if they are not highly food motivated. German Shepherd Dogs are known for their long and lean physique. For an underweight GSD, that means Bodhi’s ribs were easily noticeable. 

While on dry kibble, Bodhi would consume enough calories to maintain good overall health, however encouraging him to eat enough to actually gain weight (and keep it on) has been challenging at best. 

At the time of starting his Instinct raw feeding trial, Bodhi weighed 65 pounds, and by week 6 he was up to 72 pounds! This is the highest his weight has ever been; now he looks healthy, fit, and powerful. 

One of the greatest benefits to feeding Instinct frozen raw is the palatability. Bodhi’s food motivation improved significantly over the course of his feeding trial. Gaining much needed weight is one thing, sustaining it is another. Due to his increased interest at meal time, I am confident Bodhi will be able to maintain his optimal weight over the long term. 

Better Oral Health

Bodhi didn’t have bad breath before the trial, just dog breath. I was pleasantly surprised when, after a week, his breath started to have almost no odour. 

Improved dental health is one of the primary benefits of feeding raw diets to dogs. Not only are raw diets loaded with naturally occurring enzymes to help break down food particles in the mouth, the finely ground bone in the recipe acts as an abrasive cleaner helping to gently scrape the teeth clean with every meal. 

Positive Behavioural Changes

German Shepherd Dogs are naturally high energy dogs to begin with, however after being on Instinct frozen raw for a few days, Bodhi became more noticeably sprightly. He has always been a happy dog, but now he just seems happier, more cheerful, and more energetic.

Another interesting observation is Bodhi’s decrease in restless behaviour. Prior to his Instinct raw food trial, he would scratch, lick, and chew at himself constantly. Now, because he is (thankfully!) no longer showing symptoms of allergies, he is more calm, and can actually lay still for a period of time without continually trying to alleviate his inflamed itchy skin.

Improved Digestion

It goes without saying that frozen raw diets for dogs are the champions of digestibility. 

Bodhi has been on high-quality super premium kibbles most of his life, and his bowel movements have been predominantly decent. However, now that he is on Instinct frozen raw, Bodhi’s stool volume has decreased, he does not strain or struggle to finish his bathroom breaks, and he has no issues with gas.

Overall Findings

From improvements in his skin and coat health, to his increased appetite leading to much needed weight gain, I have been overjoyed with how well Bodhi has performed on Instinct frozen raw. The most notable improvement was the elimination of his allergic symptoms. No longer is Bodhi constantly chewing his legs until they are raw. 

On a personal note, it gives me a great deal of assurance knowing the degree of scrutiny Instinct puts into their ingredient quality, sourcing, and manufacturing. The raw pet food industry is virtually unregulated, so it is up to the consumer to educate themselves to determine which raw brands are the safest, healthiest, and most reliable. 

Knowing what we know about Instinct raw pet foods, it is no wonder they are among the most highly-rated raw brands on the marketplace today.

I can confidently say that Bodhi’s quality of life has improved considerably since starting Instinct frozen raw, and I look forward to monitoring his continuous improvement over the course of the next several months. 

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition and canine psychology. He has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon has a lifelong passion for helping people become great pet parents. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

8 Responses

  1. My small Havamalt has gained weight since I started feeding her this. She was 12 lbs and now 15 lbs. it’s only been a few months. I’m only giving her 2-3 pellets 3 times a day. Also she seems to be twice as hungry now, searching for food on our walks and all over our kitchen floor. Any thoughts on this? I may have to cut back to 1 pellet. This is in addition to her dry food which I have cut back on just slightly..

    1. Hello, Michelle. Thank you for your email.

      Weight gain from 12lbs to 15lbs is a 25% increase, which is a considerable amount, especially in only a few months time.

      Providing your dog does not have an underlying condition (like hypothyroid, for example), there is no magic to weight loss or weight gain; it is a combination of proper portion control and exercise. If your pooch has a clean bill of health but is gaining weight, then you either need to reduce her portions, increase exercise, or ideally, a healthy combination of both. Also keep in mind that treats and other goodies are the most common reason for unwanted weight gain in pets, so please be mindful of any extras your pooch may receive.

      I hope this is helpful.

  2. Both my shihtzus been on this dog food 4 years.
    They love it. I don’t have to fight with them to eat dry food, like the ones I tried before .
    They love all the raw bites

  3. My dog has been on this food for more than a decade and loved it. Recently the medallions were discontinued and the formula changed. She LOVES the new product even more! Her appetite is great, her skin and coat are lush, and her poops are very small with almost no odour!!

  4. Our dog has been on instinct raw for 3 years and has done great! He loves the product….
    Recently, the company dropped the medallions which he”s on…this has been a major problem for him and us. Please bring the medallions back….he especially loves the lamb and beef.
    The bites are too small and hard to handle….we don’t want to change companies…. the medallions are reasonably priced which we can afford. Please, please bring back the lamb and beef medallions.

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