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The essentials

  • Cephalexin is a common antibiotic. It’s used in both humans and dogs to help treat skin, ear, and even urinary tract infections.
  • There are no severe side effects in dogs. Common mild side effects include nausea, panting, or drooling.
  • There are no known drug interactions. There are no serious interactions with other drugs. But, always let your vet know about any medications your dog is taking.

Cephalexin at a glance

Medication type: Antibiotic

Availability: Prescription

FDA approved: Yes

Common medications: Keflex, Rilexine, and Vetolexin 

Life stage: All life stages, but exercise caution with pregnant and lactating dogs

What is cephalexin?

Cephalexin is a first-generation cephalosporin, which is a type of antibiotic similar to penicillins. It’s most commonly used as an extra-label treatment for bacterial skin infections and UTIs in dogs and cats. But, it can also help with many types of bacterial infections your pet may experience. Common brand names include Keflex, Rilexine, and Vetolexin.

Uses of cephalexin for dogs

Cephalexin is considered a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning that it’s effective against a variety of bacterial infections, such as: 

  • Skin infections. Cephalexin may be able to help conditions like staph infections, pyoderma, or hot spots.
  • Urinary tract infections. Cephalexin is effective against E. coli, so your vet may recommend it for UTIs
  • Ear infections. If your dog has itchy ears or inflammation in one or both ears, your veterinarian may prescribe cephalexin.
  • Bone infections. Cephalexin is effective against certain types of bacteria that may cause bone infections.
  • Upper respiratory tract infections. Cephalexin may be able to help with influenza, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections your pup may contract.
  • Preventative measures. Cephalexin may be prescribed to prevent infections in certain wounds or abscesses, like injuries from a fight with another dog or animal. 

Pet insurance may help cover the cost of cephalexin and other prescription meds, depending on your plan.

Types of bacteria cephalexin works against

Cephalexin is effective against several different types of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Haemophilus influenza
  • E. coli
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Klebsiella pneumonia
  • Proteus mirabilis

Giving your dog cephalexin

Cephalexin is only available by prescription. Make sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and dosage as closely as possible. If you miss a dose, but it hasn’t been too long past the scheduled time, give it when you remember. But if it’s close to the time for the next dose, wait for the next scheduled time. Too much cephalexin can cause an overdose, so it’s important to give your dog their medication at the proper time. 

Cephalexin can be given with or without food. But, if your pet vomits or acts sick after taking the medication, try giving the pill with a small amount of food or a treat to help prevent gastrointestinal upset. The medication will take effect quickly, but it may take a few days for you to notice visible effects in your furry friend.

Forms of cephalexin

Cephalexin is an oral antibiotic that comes in different forms, the most common of which is a chewable tablet. However, it may also come as an oral suspension or capsule, which is often a more affordable option. If your dog struggles with taking pills, this might help make the process easier

Dosage of cephalexin for dogs

Usually, the recommended cephalexin dosage in dogs is 10 to 15 mg for each pound of body weight. However, you should never give your dog any expired or leftover medication from another pet or person. Follow your veterinarian’s directions closely and never give your pet more than the recommended dose.

Potential side effects of cephalexin for dogs

Antibiotics are usually well-tolerated by most dogs. However, let your vet know if your pet has sensitivities to penicillin, cephamycin, or carbapenems. Cephalexin must be used with caution in dogs who suffer from kidney disease or decreased renal function, or if your pup is pregnant or nursing.

Some possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Panting or difficulty breathing 
  • Drooling
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Skin rashes 
  • Hives

Drug interactions with cephalexin

Although cephalexin has no documented drug interactions, it may increase the effects of blood thinners like warfarin or diuretics like furosemide. Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies your pet takes to keep your pup safe and healthy.

Alternatives to cephalexin for dogs

If your dog is allergic to cephalexin, plenty of other antibiotics, like sulfonamides or fluoroquinolones, are available to avoid an allergic reaction.

If you’d rather treat your pet with natural antibiotics, there are many different options, including foods, oils, herbs, and plants with antibacterial properties. Even CBD oil for dogs shows potential against certain bacteria. But, depending on the severity, herbal remedies may not be strong enough to treat your pup’s condition. These remedies are most effective when used as a preventative measure or on mild infections. If your dog has a serious condition that requires medical attention, let your vet know right away so you can determine the best treatment plan. 

👉 Always consult your vet before administering any natural antibiotics to your dog.

Frequently asked questions

What does cephalexin 500mg do for dogs?

Cephalexin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that can help with a range of bacterial infections. Always consider your dog’s weight when dosing, and never give your pet medications without your vet’s guidance. 

How much cephalexin do I give my dog?

Usually, the dosage of cephalexin in dogs is 10 to 15 mg for each pound of body weight. However, you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian to determine the proper dosage for your pet. 

Can dogs take human cephalexin 500mg?

While cephalexin is the same medication for dogs and humans, you should never give your dog any prescription medication without your vet’s guidance and approval. 

Can I get antibiotics for my dog without going to the vet?

Cephalexin is only available by prescription, so you’ll need to talk to your vet to determine if it’s the right choice. However, natural alternatives for antibiotics may help address some medical conditions in dogs.