Fact checked

How Safe is Licorice for Dogs?

Dog Care
7 minutes read
While candy isn’t good for dogs, there may be some healing properties in licorice you didn’t know about.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Licorice is a plant with an intensely sweet root that is often used as a spice. It is also often referred to as a popular type of firm, chewy candy that only sometimes contains licorice root. The herb derived from the licorice plant's root has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years and is an ingredient in some traditional European candies. 

Safe licorice for dogs, however, is generally medicinal licorice root used to treat such symptoms as swelling, itching, and digestive problems in otherwise healthy dogs. The candy may not harm dogs, but the added sugar and other ingredients are not typically suitable for a dog's long-term health.

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When is Licorice Harmful to Dogs?

The licorice root is generally not considered harmful to healthy dogs when given alone as a supplement or medicine. However, licorice root can be dangerous when dogs have high blood pressure or heart problems. An active ingredient in it is glycyrrhiza, which typically interacts with the adrenal glands and helps naturally produced steroids stay effective longer. This ingredient can also raise blood pressure and cause water retention, which is potentially fatal for dogs who already suffer from similar problems.

What to Do If a Dog Ingests Licorice Candy

Given the potentially harmful nature of licorice candy and glycyrrhiza found in some licorice, you may find yourself in an emergency with your dog. You must act fast if you suspect your dog has eaten licorice candy. Here are some simple steps to take:

  • Inform your vet. If you have the container where the licorice is from, read the ingredients to the doctor.
  • Monitor your dog for symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, excessive drooling, and lethargy. You must rush them to the vet if they have these symptoms.

Depending on the breed and size of your dog, one piece of licorice candy may not be any cause for concern. However, your dog's breed and size will not matter if they ate an entire bag of licorice, as the amount of sugar can have detrimental effects. So, be sure to try and figure out how much licorice your dog ate.

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When is Licorice Helpful to Dogs?

When appropriately used, licorice can be beneficial to your precious pup. Keep in mind licorice is better used for short-term pain alleviation. Here are some of the ways licorice is used to boost dog health:

To Ease Digestive Problems

Licorice's anti-inflammatory and calming properties can also help protect the mucus lining of the gut and, in so doing, act as a remedy for a leaky gut. Leaky gut develops when your dog's intestinal lining gets damaged. 

As a result, leftover food fragments can enter their bloodstream and form blood toxins. Chronic inflammation brought on by a leaky gut can result in conditions including arthritis, autoimmune illness, allergies, and even liver issues. Licorice combats this issue by stimulating the formation of mucus to safeguard the gut lining so that unwanted substances do not get into your dog's blood.

Other digestive issues licorice can help treat in your dog include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Stomach and duodenal ulcers
  • Indigestion

To Soothe Joint Pain

Licorice has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent option for joint pain relief. It has several active ingredients, such as glycyrrhizin, that combat inflammation and prevent other joint conditions.

However, it would be best if you did not rely solely on self-medicated licorice for severe issues such as arthritis and joint illness. Get advice from a vet. They will be in the best position to assess the cause, type, and extent of joint damage and determine whether or not licorice is the best remedy for long-term treatment. 

To Treat Respiratory Problems

Licorice is also great for your dog's respiratory system. It is an effective expectorant. This means it will help your dog expel excess mucus blocking its airways. Its anti-inflammatory properties will also help soothe sore throats.

To Heal Skin Conditions

The anti-inflammatory properties of licorice help treat itchy skin conditions. Licorice has been shown in human trials to be an effective treatment for skin conditions such as eczema, burns, bruises, acne, and swellings after bumps.

Licorice can be applied directly to your dog's skin to relieve the itching caused by disorders such as contact dermatitis and flea allergies. It is available as a tea, salve, or oil. While you work to treat your pup's skin issues with internal treatments, topical licorice will help keep them comfortable.

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What is the Best Form of Licorice to Give a Dog?

A form of licorice for dogs — and humans — known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, may be able to provide the soothing benefits of licorice without the side effects. The glycyrrhiza has been removed from DGL, usually taking the potential for dangerous side effects. Its removal generally makes the licorice safer for dogs and people who may have health issues that keep plain licorice root from being a good remedy. 

As with most remedies, anyone who wants to use licorice should discuss it with their veterinarians to be sure it is a safe option for their pets. This is especially important if a dog has health issues or takes medication.

Chocolate Candy vs. Black Licorice

Unlike chocolate candy, black licorice candy is not generally considered one of the foods known to be dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate is usually bad for dogs because it can cause fast, serious side effects and even death. Most types of candy do not usually carry such dire warnings, but foods with sugar, flour, and other everyday ingredients regularly eaten by people are not generally healthy for dogs. They can develop conditions such as high blood sugar, obesity, heart and kidney problems, and other health issues from eating these foods.

The candy known as licorice in the United States generally does not even contain licorice root. Still, it is flavored with anise, which has a similar taste but does not typically offer any potential health benefits that natural licorice may offer. Instead, you should be most worried about the excess sugar and chemicals. Typical licorice may have a bitter taste, which may automatically make your dog deny the candy. However, if it is recommended for your dog due to a health concern, be sure the licorice contains licorice root.

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How do Dogs Take Licorice?

Licorice can be used differently depending on what it is used to treat. You can give your dog licorice through:

Ingesting Pills

You can purchase licorice pills from your local pet pharmacy. However, as with all medication, it is best only to use the pills as prescribed by your vet.

Topical Application

For topical application, you will need to make an oil infusion of licorice. This infusion will be ready to apply on your dog's skin as necessary. 

Add chopped dried licorice root in a glass container to prepare a licorice infusion. Cover the root in the jar with olive oil, then place the jar in a warm place for 30 days. Avoid direct sunlight. Strain it with cheesecloth, then store it in the fridge.

The infusion is safe for your dog to lick. Ensure you do not put on too much, so they only ingest moderate amounts.

Some people give their dog licorice through their food by sprinkling licorice powder or crushed licorice.

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Why Licorice is Not All Bad

People have used medicinal licorice since ancient times for the same types of conditions for which it is given to dogs today. Digestive problems, allergies, itching, and inflammation are common uses of this root in humans and dogs. Its effect on the adrenal glands can also make it a decent substitute for medicinal steroids because it may provide similar benefits without the same side effects that steroids often cause.

It is important to offer proper food and care to your dog, especially if it is an emotional support animal. Be cautious when giving new substances to your pet, and always double-check with a veterinarian before administering at-home medical treatments, especially if your dog is already on medications.

To get more helpful tips and facts about your pup, visit the Pettable blog.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.