Cephalexin For Dogs: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, And Natural Alternatives

Medically reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM

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When dog lovers see their beloved friend incessantly scratching and extremely uncomfortable, it can be hard to handle. Not knowing how to help is almost worse.

Once you have determined the cause of the itchiness, the next step is to treat and manage the symptoms. With many pharmaceuticals available, your veterinarian will likely find one he or she feels will make your dog the most comfortable.

This article will take a closer look at a pharmaceutical drug known as Cephalexin, what it does, how it is used, the safety, and potential side effects.

We will also discover natural alternatives that may help dogs with bacterial skin conditions and skin conditions in general.

What is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin is a type of antibiotic used for treating bacterial skin infections. It's also utilized by some veterinarians to treat urinary tract infections in both cats and dogs.

Cephalexin is a generic drug. Brand names for this drug include Keflex®, Rilexine®, and Vetolexin®. 

What Is Cephalexin Used For in Dogs? 

As mentioned previously, Cephalexin is used to treat bacterial skin infections like Pyoderma . Dogs can also use Cephalexin for: 

  • Urinary Tract Infections: Due to its ability to fight bacteria, veterinarians may recommend Cephalexin for urinary tract infections. 
  • Ear infections: If your dog has red, itchy ears or inflammation in one or both ears, your veterinarian may prescribe Cephalexin. 
  • Preventative measures: If your dog has any wound or injury, your veterinarian may prescribe Cephalexin as a measure to prevent infection. 

Types of Cephalexin for Dogs 

Cephalexin is available as a chewable tablet (most common for dogs), capsule, and oral suspension. It's also known as an oral paste in Canada.  

Cephalexin Side Effects in Dogs 

Cephalexin's side effects are generally minor and only occur in rare cases. This antibiotic may cause stomach problems such as:

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

Other, more serious, side effects may occur. Call your veterinarian if these side effects become serious: 

  • Fever 
  • Rashes 
  • Trouble breathing  

Cephalexin can cause severe skin reactions in rare cases. In these circumstances, call your veterinarian immediately.

This antibiotic drug's effects should wear off in 24 hours, but they may last longer in dogs with kidney or liver disease. 

Is it Safe? 

The FDA has licensed Cephalexin for certain skin infections in dogs. Veterinarians are also permitted to recommend it under “extra-label” provisions.

Although Cephalexin has no serious documented drug interactions, Furosemide and Warfarin are two medications that may interfere with Cephalexin.

To be safe, you should notify your veterinarian of any drugs being taken (including supplements, vitamins, or herbal remedies).

Cephalexin should not be given to pets who have a history of sensitivity to cephalosporin. Cephalexin must be used carefully in pets that are allergic or sensitive to antibiotics such as:

  • Penicillin
  • Cephamycin 
  • Carbapenems

Pet parents should monitor dogs with kidney disease closely.

Cephalexin must be used with caution in dogs who are pregnant or nursing. 

Cephalexin Dosage For Dogs 

You must follow your veterinarian's dosage recommendations. The following is a general dose for this medication; however, your veterinarian can change it for your specific dog. Make sure you are aware of and comfortable with the side effects taht cephalexin will have before giving it to your dog.

Cephalexin is usually given in dogs at a dose of 10 to 15 mg per pound of body weight. For a 50 pound dog, that means you would likely provide about 500 mg. The drug's concentration will differ, so read the directions carefully and follow your veterinarian's advice.

Veterinarians usually advise pet owners to give their dogs the medication every eight to twelve hours or two to three times a day. Owners may provide it to their dogs with or without food, but feeding it to them with food reduces the risk of side effects.

You must adhere to the treatment plan your veterinarian has recommended. Cephalexin treatment usually lasts for seven to twenty-eight days, depending on the problem being treated. Always complete the full course of Cephalexin even if your dog is feeling better.

Overdosing is rarely a concern, but it may result in gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or vomiting. If your dog is hypersensitive to the medication, it may exacerbate the issue and result in a harmful reaction. In the event of an overdose, consult a veterinarian. 

How Much Does it Cost? 

According to one popular online pet pharmacy, the medication is being sold per capsule or by bottle.

250 mg: $0.24

500 mg: $0.34

Liquid bottle (100 mL): $33.59

Are There Any Natural Alternatives To Cephalexin For Dogs? 

We live in an era where people are more mindful of what they consume, where their food and medications come from, and the long-term effects they may have on their bodies. We now demand the same level of awareness from our beloved pets.

More dog lovers turn to natural remedies to allow the body to heal using Earth's natural elements. More so with antibiotics, due to antibiotic resistance continuing to rise over time.

Cannabidiol, available as a topical, or CBD oil for dogs, combined with antibiotics, was more effective than antibiotics alone in treating certain infections, according to research conducted at the University of Southern Denmark. Researchers looked at how various compounds combat bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus in the report (a gram-positive bacteria).

This research is forward-thinking and makes some significant advances. More research is needed to validate its results, but it shows a lot of promise, particularly regarding antibiotic resistance concerns. 


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