can dogs have licorice

Can Dogs Have Licorice and What Are the Risks?

Is the question “Can dogs have licorice?” making you scratch your head? For many dog owners, it does. In the wide-ranging world of human food, it’s essential to discern what our canine companions can safely consume. This article aims to answer this puzzling question and shed light on the potential impacts of licorice on dogs.

What Is Licorice?


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Licorice, beloved by people worldwide, is not merely a singular confectionary but exists in two main variants: red and black. However, their shared name is perhaps where most of their similarities end.

Red licorice, contrary to what its name suggests, doesn’t contain any actual licorice plant product. It’s a fruit-flavored candy that’s generally colored red or sometimes even rainbow, though other colors are possible. Its primary ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, and often artificial flavorings. These sticks of chewy delight have a mildly sweet flavor and are a favorite in many movie theatres and homes.

Black licorice, on the other hand, does include licorice extract derived from the roots of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a legume native to Southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is well-known for its distinctly sweet, complex, and slightly bitter flavor, making it a somewhat polarizing candy — people tend to either love it or hate it.

The black color comes from the licorice extract, and it’s this ingredient that also lends the candy potential health implications, which are important to consider when we ask if dogs can safely consume it.

Despite their shared moniker, red and black licorice are very different, both in their ingredients and their potential impacts on canine health. This distinction sets the stage for our further examination of the question: Can dogs have licorice?

Can Dogs Have Red Licorice Candy?


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The colorful, fruit-flavored chew of red licorice is a crowd favorite among people, but can it be safely shared with our canine companions? Although it might be tempting to share a stick with your pooch, it’s not the best idea.

Red licorice is often made with ingredients such as wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. While none of these ingredients are necessarily toxic to dogs in small amounts, they don’t offer any nutritional benefits and can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and other health issues over time.

Starting with sugar, an excessive amount can lead to obesity in dogs, just as it does in humans. Obesity is a growing concern in pet health, leading to numerous complications, including diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Moreover, like in humans, high sugar intake can lead to dental issues in dogs, including tooth decay and gum disease.

Artificial flavors and colors present another concern. These ingredients, while generally safe for human consumption, may cause allergic reactions in dogs. Allergic reactions can range from minor skin irritations to severe gastrointestinal upset, depending on the dog and the substance involved.

Moreover, the high sodium content found in red licorice can lead to sodium ion poisoning in dogs, especially if they consume a large quantity. The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and in severe cases, it can even be fatal.

Lastly, even if the red licorice is sugar-free, it could contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol can cause a rapid decrease in a dog’s blood sugar levels, leading to disorientation and seizures, and can even cause liver failure.

In light of these potential risks, it’s best to avoid feeding red licorice to dogs. There are plenty of dog-safe treats available that your pet can enjoy without risk. Always remember, when it comes to your pet’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Can Dogs Have Black Licorice Candy?

Black Licorice

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Black licorice, unlike its red counterpart, contains licorice root extract, giving it its distinctive flavor and color. However, this key ingredient also introduces additional health concerns when considering its safety for canine consumption.

A critical component of black licorice is a compound called glycyrrhizin, derived from licorice root. Glycyrrhizin is known for its sweetness — about 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar. However, its consumption isn’t without risks, especially for dogs.

Glycyrrhizin can cause an electrolyte imbalance in dogs by depleting potassium levels. Low potassium levels, or hypokalemia, can lead to muscle weakness, irregular heart rhythms, and, in severe cases, paralysis.

Moreover, licorice’s glycyrrhizin content may also cause pseudoaldosteronism in dogs, a condition that mimics the effects of excessive aldosterone, a hormone that controls sodium and potassium levels in the body. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, hypertension (high blood pressure), and swelling or edema due to fluid retention.

Similar to red licorice, black licorice also typically contains high amounts of sugar, posing the same risks of obesity, dental problems, and diabetes if consumed in large quantities. Furthermore, just like red licorice, certain brands of black licorice might use artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs.

In addition, some dogs might have an allergic reaction to the licorice plant itself, which could result in skin irritations, gastrointestinal upset, and other allergic symptoms.

Considering these potential health issues, it’s advisable to keep black licorice out of your dog’s reach and diet. While a small, one-off ingestion might not lead to severe problems, regular or large amounts could pose significant health risks. If your dog consumes black licorice and exhibits any abnormal signs, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Can Dogs Have Licorice Root?

Licorice Root

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Licorice root, often used as an ingredient in herbal medicine, is derived from the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). It contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, known for its sweetness and potential medicinal properties. The question of whether licorice root is safe for dogs is a bit complex due to its potential benefits and risks.

Let’s start with the potential benefits. Licorice root has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and has various purported health benefits. Some studies have suggested that it possesses anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.

In a canine context, it has been used to treat allergic reactions and digestive problems due to these properties. It is also occasionally used in managing Addison’s disease in dogs, a condition where the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones.

However, the use of licorice root in dogs is not without risks, especially with prolonged or high dosage usage. One of the primary concerns is the compound glycyrrhizin. As previously discussed, this compound can cause an electrolyte imbalance by decreasing potassium levels, leading to symptoms such as muscle weakness, irregular heart rhythms, and even paralysis.

Prolonged exposure to glycyrrhizin can also lead to a condition called pseudoaldosteronism, which can cause increased thirst and urination, high blood pressure, and edema.

The main takeaway here is that while licorice root may have potential health benefits, it can also pose significant risks, especially when consumed in large amounts or for a long period. As with any herbal supplement, licorice root should not be given to dogs without first consulting with a veterinarian.

It’s also important to remember that while some herbal remedies may be beneficial, they are not a substitute for veterinary care. If your dog is unwell, it’s always best to consult a vet.

Potential Health Risks of Licorice Consumption in Dogs

Potential Health Risks

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While licorice candy is a treat many people enjoy, its consumption by dogs poses a variety of health risks, both specific and general.

1. High Sugar Content

Both red and black licorice typically contain high amounts of sugar. As in humans, excessive sugar intake in dogs can lead to obesity, which is associated with a host of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. High sugar levels also contribute to dental issues, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Many sugar-free or diet candies, including some licorice varieties, contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Even a small amount can cause a rapid and dangerous drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), resulting in symptoms like weakness, disorientation, seizures, and in severe cases, liver failure.

3. Sodium Ion Poisoning

Licorice, especially red licorice, often contains high levels of sodium. Large amounts of sodium can lead to sodium ion poisoning in dogs, causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.

4. Glycyrrhizin Toxicity

Black licorice and licorice root contain glycyrrhizin, which, in excess, can cause an electrolyte imbalance by decreasing potassium levels, leading to hypokalemia. Symptoms include muscle weakness, irregular heart rhythms, and, in severe cases, paralysis.

5. Allergic Reactions

Some dogs may have allergic reactions to the ingredients in licorice. These reactions can range from minor skin irritations to severe gastrointestinal upset.

6. Digestive Upset

Licorice, especially when eaten in large quantities, can cause digestive upset in dogs, leading to symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

7. Liver Damage

In severe cases of licorice toxicity, dogs can suffer from liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage can include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), increased thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, and changes in behavior or appetite.

The health risks associated with licorice consumption in dogs are serious and varied. It is essential to prevent access to licorice and other potentially harmful foods, to ensure your dog remains healthy and happy. If you suspect that your dog has consumed licorice, seek immediate veterinary attention.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Licorice

What to Do

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In the unfortunate event that your dog has eaten licorice, it’s important to know the steps to take to ensure their health and safety. Here are the actions you should take, broken down for clarity:

  1. Don’t Panic: While it’s natural to be concerned, panicking won’t help the situation. Stay calm and focus on the next steps to take care of your dog.
  2. Remove Any Remaining Licorice: If there is still licorice within your dog’s reach, ensure you remove it immediately to prevent them from eating more.
  3. Monitor Your Dog’s Behavior: Keep a close eye on your dog for any signs of illness or discomfort. Signs to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, disorientation, weakness, seizures, and changes in behavior. If any of these symptoms appear, it’s critical to get your dog to a vet immediately.
  4. Contact Your Vet: Even if your dog seems fine, it’s always a good idea to contact your vet if your dog has eaten something potentially harmful. Licorice contains ingredients that can cause serious health problems in dogs, especially in large amounts. Your vet can provide advice on what to watch for and whether you need to bring your dog in for an examination.
  5. Induce Vomiting Only if Advised: You may feel the urge to make your dog vomit to expel the licorice, but this should only be done if explicitly instructed by a professional. In some situations, inducing vomiting can cause more harm than good.
  6. Document the Incident: Take note of how much licorice your dog has eaten, when it happened, and any symptoms you’ve noticed. This information can help your vet determine the severity of the situation and the best course of treatment.

The most crucial part of this process is to act promptly and consult a vet. Timely medical attention can significantly affect your dog’s outcome after eating licorice.

Alternatives to Licorice for Dogs


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While we’ve established that licorice isn’t the best treat for our furry friends, there are plenty of healthy and tasty alternatives to satisfy their cravings. Below are some options:

1. Dog-Safe Fruits and Vegetables

Certain fruits and vegetables are not only safe for dogs but also offer a variety of health benefits. For instance, apples (without the seeds), carrots, and cucumbers can make excellent crunchy treats. Just remember to serve them in appropriate sizes to prevent choking.

2. Peanut Butter

Dogs typically love peanut butter, and it’s generally safe for them to eat. However, make sure you’re choosing a brand that doesn’t contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener toxic to dogs.

3. Homemade Dog Treats

Homemade dog treats are a great alternative, as you control the ingredients that go into them. This way, you can ensure the treats are healthy and suitable for your pet’s dietary needs.

4. Dog-Safe Store-Bought Treats

There’s a wide range of dog-friendly treats available on the market. When choosing one, look for those with natural ingredients, no added sugars, and no artificial flavors or colors.

5. Dental Chews

Dental chews not only satisfy your dog’s urge to chew but also help maintain their oral health by reducing plaque and tartar build-up.

6. Training Treats

These treats are small, low in calories, and perfect for rewarding good behavior or for use during training sessions.

Remember, treats should be a small part of your dog’s diet, accounting for no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. As always, if you’re introducing new foods into your pet’s diet, do so gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach.

In conclusion, there are many alternatives to licorice that are safe and enjoyable for dogs. Opt for these healthier options to keep your furry friend both satisfied and healthy.


In answer to “Can dogs have licorice?” – it’s best to avoid both red and black licorice. The potential health risks outweigh the momentary enjoyment your pup might get. Always consult with your vet before introducing any new foods into your dog’s diet.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.