Can Dogs Eat Licorice – Is This Red or Black Candy Safe to Give?

Picture of red and black licorice

Licorice is tricky when it comes to giving it to dogs. You’ll find websites that tell you to avoid giving it to dogs and others that say you can give it to them in certain circumstances. Can dogs eat red or black licorice? We’ll look at licorice as a candy and as a medicine and give you the complete story.

Licorice Benefits

Licorice is an herb (actually, a legume) and most of the medicinal benefits are contained in its roots. It contains glycosides, sapinins, flavonoids, and other beneficial substances.

One of the most important substances found in licorice is the glycoside glycyrrhizin. Chemically, glycyrrhizin has a structure that is similar to naturally-occurring corticosteroids. For this reason, licorice can be a good anti-inflammatory for people who have problems with their joints and allergies. Licorice can strengthen the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory processes (unlike prescribed corticosteroids). And it doesn’t compromise the immune system. The glycyrrhizin in licorice can be a helpful partner when used with hydrocordisone therapy, even leading to lower dosages. It can help avert some of the harmful side effects of steroid use and be used to wean dogs off taking steroids.

Licorice’s anti-inflammatory properties can also help the digestive and upper-respiratory systems. It can be used to heal ulcers and to reduce the inflammation associated with bronchitis.

Some of the ways that licorice root is used as an herbal medicine include:

  • Treatment of arthritis and joint pain
  • Itching from allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • As a topical anti-itch aid
  • Inflammation
  • Liver health, detoxification, and support
  • For pain
  • Respiratory problems with the involvement of mucus membranes
  • Urinary tract infections

Can Dogs Eat Red or Black Licorice?

Licorice candy is not recommended for dogs. According to the sources we checked, most side effects occurred from the excessive consumption of European licorice candy. This candy is made from a very concentrated extract of the root.

In America, most licorice candy contains no real licorice but it does have artificial flavoring or the extracts of other plants with a similar taste. It also contains lots of sugar which isn’t good for your dog.

In any case, we don’t recommend giving your dog red or black licorice candy. If you want to use licorice, buy the root and use it as an herbal medicine.

How to Give Your Dog Licorice

Licorice has a sweet taste so many animals, including dogs, love it. This can make it easy to overdose, especially if your dog takes some when you aren’t looking. Some people use it to mask the taste of other herbs that don’t taste as good.

You can make an infusion of licorice oil very easily.

Place chopped licorice root in a glass jar with olive oil. You just need enough olive oil to cover it with ½ inch over the top of the herbs.

Fit the jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place in a warm cupboard, away from the sun, for 30 days.

After 30 days, save the oil and squeeze as much oil as possible from the licorice root. The licorice oil will remain useful in your refrigerator for months.

Licorice oil is good for applying externally to arthritic joints and as an anti-itch aid.

You can also give your dog a tincture made from licorice root or a tea.

Risks to giving a dog red or black licorice

Are There Risks with Giving Your Dog Red or Black Licorice?

Since licorice root is a cortisone-like substance, it can cause your dog to retain sodium and lose potassium. This can lead to edema or water retention; high blood pressure (hypertension); and low potassium (hyopkalemia). This was only found with excessive use and prolonged consumption in human studies but it’s something that you need to be aware of with your dog.

You shouldn’t use licorice root more than two weeks in a row without the advice of your veterinarian. Your dog may need a diuretic and dietary potassium if you use it any longer Talk to your vet.

If your dog is diabetic or pregnant or nursing, you should not use licorice root. And, if your dog has heart or liver disease, you should talk to your veterinarian before you give him licorice. Herbal medicines have real effects on your dog’s health so you should take them seriously.

How Much Licorice Can You Give Your Dog?

If you are planning to use licorice root internally, you can make it into a tincture or tea. In general, you can use 12 to 20 drops of the licorice tincture per 20 pounds of body weight, twice per day. You can adjust as you see how your dog responds. You can also purchase glycerin-based tinctures in health stores or online.

For a tea you can use 30 to 60 drops per 20 pounds of body weight, twice per day. To make the tea, steep one teaspoon of licorice root in 1 cup of water. You can buy licorice root to make as a tea online or in health stores.

How Often Can You Give Your Dog Licorice?

If you are treating your dog with the herb for a specific health issue, experts say that you can use it several times per day for up to two weeks. Used more frequently or beyond that time, you run the risk of causing side effects in your dog. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog needs longer treatment or if he shows any side effects.


Red and black licorice sold as candy in North America doesn’t usually contain any real licorice. Instead, they are made with flavorings and sugar. You should not let your dog eat these candies. However, licorice root can be used as a very effective herbal medicine for arthritis, the itching associated with allergies, bronchitis, digestive problems, and other health issues. Make sure that your dog is a good candidate to take licorice root. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog has any side effects.



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