Can Dogs Eat Licorice Safely?

Closeup shot of red licorice on a blue tablecloth.

Licorice candy is a classic and tasty treat enjoyed by many. Licorice is known for its unique aroma and flavor, as well as its versatility and extreme sweetness. It is commonly enjoyed in the form of candy ropes and chews, but licorice can be devoured in a multitude of ways.

You might love licorice so much that you are tempted to let your dog in on all that delicious fun! But you, like many good pup parents, want to be sure this sugary confection won’t harm your precious pet. You might be asking yourself, “Can my dog eat licorice safely?”

Dried Licorice Sticks in wooden bowl

Licorice root has been used for thousands of years to help treat a variety of ailments

View Table of Contents

Effects of Licorice on Your Dog 

You might be surprised to learn the majority of the licorice candy we are familiar with often does not contain the actual licorice root, but rather other flavors meant to emulate the licorice root’s taste and smell. Usually, red licorice contains anise extract or oil, while it is the black variety that contains the actual licorice root. Though, this is not always the case. When it comes to the safety of your dog, you should be aware of the various types of licorice and their contents, as well as when consuming licorice can actually be beneficial for your pet. 

What Exactly is Licorice?

Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, in its original form is actually a plant and can appear in many different treats, including beverages and food. The use of its sweet root dates back nearly five thousand years to ancient Egypt, where it was first put into drinks, both for enjoyment and to satiate extreme thirst.

In addition to adding a yummy flavoring to various treats, the root can also be found in herbal medicine practices in several forms, such as tea or creams. Some traditional Asian medicines have long used licorice for its medicinal properties. These herbal practices claim licorice has a plethora of healing abilities and is known to treat certain ailments such as: 

  • Digestive issues 
  • Pain 
  • Certain infections

However, studies on the effectiveness of these treatments, and the many other speculative benefits of licorice, are limited. What we do know is that consuming large amounts of the root can cause serious harm to humans, but what about licorice and the safety of your canine?

Red Licorice 

Red licorice tends to contain an abundance of unhealthy ingredients, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. Corn syrup is extremely high in sugar and, much like when it is consumed by humans, can lead to excess weight gain and even diabetes.

While it is not toxic for your dog to eat, corn syrup is not optimal for your dog’s health. High fructose corn syrup results in much of the same issues as corn syrup. Palm oil can also be detrimental to your dog’s health, as well. Dogs who consume palm oil can have digestive issues, such as diarrhea, but luckily the effects of a one-time consumption likely won’t last. 

What makes red licorice an absolute no-no for your precious pup is the same ingredient that makes granola so harmful. Red licorice contains Xylitol, an artificial sweetener common to many human foods. Dogs have a hard time digesting this ingredient and even just small amounts can have irreversible and sometimes fatal effects. Furthermore, certain artificial preservatives found in candies can also pose a significant problem to your dog’s health, including death. 

Black Licorice Candy shaped like a twisted rope in plate on wooden board

Black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root.

Black Licorice

Sadly, despite its seemingly more natural contents, black licorice contains many of the same ingredients as its red counterpart. In addition to the natural licorice root, black licorice also has corn syrups, artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, and preservatives, making it a less than ideal snack for dogs. According to the FDA, the glycyrrhizin in black licorice can even be fatal to certain people in large amounts, so giving it to your pup may not be a good idea. 

It is important to note no two licorice brands are the same. Ingredients will inevitably vary, so be sure to read the package of any licorice candy you may consider giving your pup. While it is safer to resort to known healthier alternatives for your pet, some higher quality licorice may be okay for your dog in moderation. If you insist on feeding your dog licorice candy, it is best to consult your veterinarian and take into consideration any dietary concerns your dog may have.  

The Truth About Licorice 

Now that you’ve been fairly warned, you may be elated to know the natural licorice root can be very beneficial for some dogs.

This is not to say you should start feeding your furry friend licorice root every day, but if your pet suffers from certain ailments and issues, bringing up licorice root with your local veterinarian may be a good idea. Animal studies have shown that certain herbal supplements, such as licorice root, can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce pain and inflammation 
  • Help manage chronic illnesses and diseases

Another positive aspect of licorice root is that it can be consumed and used in several different ways. Most commonly, dogs can drink licorice tea, take licorice pills, and even eat licorice extract. This makes taking the supplement widely accessible for dogs of varying needs. 

Much like salami, when licorice root is consumed by your dog, it should be very sparingly.

In terms of licorice candy, it is best to steer clear completely in order to avoid any hazardous ingredients, like Xylitol. Luckily, if your dog ever does come across a piece of licorice candy, eating a small amount will likely not harm them.

However, it is a good idea to monitor their behavior and check the nutrition information for the presence of any potentially harmful ingredients. While some higher quality licorice candies might be free of these cheap, dangerous ingredients, it is best not to take any chances with your canine companion.

Additionally, even though accidental and light consumption of licorice candy by your dog may not be harmful to give to your pet, handing them this sweet treat intentionally is not advisable.

If your dog is larger in size, it is less likely to have any adverse reactions to licorice. However, there is an abundance of healthier and safer treats for your dog out there, so the risk is unnecessary.

See more:

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.