Cephalexin that can be given to a dog

Cephalexin For Dogs – All You Need To Know

Sometimes, during recurrent bacterial infections in dogs, pet parents wonder if they can reach out to that leftover supply of Keflex. This is a very common question that we hear frequently from our readers. Can I give Cephalexin to my pet? Is is safe for my dog’s health?

Cephalexin is a very successful treatment for bacterial infections in dogs. It is normally sold under the brand name Keflex. But may also be stored under other brand names like Biocef or Keftab and is available in both capsule as well as liquid form. Like most antibiotics, it is a prescription only medicine that is not FDA approved yet for use in canines. Having said that, there is a dose and a schedule to give Cephalexin for dogs which is completely different from giving it to humans. So, reaching out for that leftover supply of Keflex is not recommended.

Here are some important details about using this broad spectrum antibiotic for dogs.

What is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin belongs to a class of drugs called Cephalosporin antibiotics that are considered to be extremely effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. It is one of the few antibiotic medications that are listed by the World Health Organization as an Essential medicine. That is because of its effectiveness in a wide range of bacterial infections.

Cephalexin for dogs can be given with or without food. Giving it with food helps to counter any possibilities of an upset stomach.

Why is Cephalexin used in dogs?

Cephalexin is prescribed for treating a wide range of bacterial infections in dogs. Typically, it is used as the first mode of treatment for skin infections and wound infections. However, your vet may also prescribe it for treating infections of the bladder and bone in dogs. Besides this, Cephalexin may rarely also be used for treating Otitis and respiratory tract infections.

How does Cephalexin work?

Unlike a penicillin antibiotic, Cephalosporin antibiotics work by inhibiting the production of a protein that the bacteria needs to reproduce. This prevents it from multiplying in the body. Since it does not kill the bacteria, it is vital that you continue the treatment for the entire duration. This will ensure that the level of the drug is maintained in the body to stop the bacteria from reproducing. If you stop the course midway, the bacteria may be left behind in the body and multiply again resulting in a recurrent infection.

Is Cephalexin safe for my dog?

Cephalexin is generally a very safe antibiotic medication for dogs. But it may not be suitable for use in dogs with certain preexisting conditions. For example, if your dog has seizures, kidney disease or a previous known allergic reaction to antibiotics, then you may not be able to use it. Also, the medication is available in both capsule form as well as liquid form. The liquid form contains sugar which is not suited for dogs who are diabetic.

One of the common mistakes that people make with antibiotics is using it to treat viral infections. Antibiotics will only be useful for treating bacterial infections and you must speak to your vet before giving your dog Cephalexin.

Sick dog resting

What is the dosage of Cephalexin?

The dosage for cephalexin varies according to the condition that it is being used to treat. It also depends on how severe the infection is. However, the standard dose in first level infections is approximately 12.5 mg per pound of your dog’s body weight. The dosage is repeated every six hours to maintain the level of the drug in the body. Most veterinarians will recommend that you give the medication at the same time each day. This will ensure that you don’t miss any dose and can also increase the effectiveness of the medication.

If you miss the occasional dose, it probably won’t harm your dog much. But you must ensure that you don’t miss multiple doses, as it will reduce the effectiveness of the treatment significantly. Also, you should never give your dog a double dose to compensate for a missed dose. This will increase the risk of side effects and can also cause an overdose.

How do I give Cephalexin to my dog?

A lot of pet parents make the mistake of crushing open the capsule and sprinkling the contents on dog food or on a tablespoon to give the dog. However, Cephalexin is one of the bitterest medications and dogs may refuse to eat it. Most dogs can swallow capsules easily and the ideal way to give Cephalexin for dogs is to give the whole capsule at one time.

If your pet is finicky about medications, then you may also conceal the capsule in a tablespoon of peanut butter or any of your dog’s favorite treat. Cephalexin can be taken with food safely.

What are the side effects of Cephalexin?

Cephalexin is one of the safest antibiotic medications that can be used in dogs. Side effects are normally mild and temporary. There is a risk of serious side effects though if the treatment is continued for a prolonged time period.

Any sign of an allergic reaction, that includes skin infections, hives or other allergies, must immediately be reported to your vet. In extreme cases, allergies to Cephalexin can make it difficult to breathe for your pet. Also, you may notice blood in the stool or swelling on their face.

Other than this, here are a few side effects that warrant medical attention.

Vomiting and Diarrhea: Vomiting and diarrhea can occur while using Cephalexin. In some cases, giving the medication with food is a workaround for this. However, if the condition is persistent, then it may dehydrate your pet and it is best if you contact your vet immediately.

Rapid Breathing: If you notice that your pet is breathing rapidly or panting excessively, then stop using Cephalexin and contact your vet.

Excitability: Some pets show signs of hyperactivity like barking, running in circles, chasing objects and jumping up. While these are normal doggie behavioral traits when they are excited, sudden and unexplained excitability, especially while using Cephalexin may be a sign that the drug is not agreeing with your dog’s body.


Cephalexin can be used for treating some types of bacterial infections in pets. However, it is crucial that you be aware of how to use and the exact dosage.