Is Cephalexin Safe for Dogs?

If your dog has lived more than a few years, then it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve been on at least one round of antibiotics in their lifetime. But if you have a relatively healthy dog who’s never been on antibiotics before, then the world of antibiotics is probably strange to you.

Can I Give My Dog Cephalexin?

Cephalexin (also known as Keflex, Rilexine, and Sporidex) is a cephalosporin antibiotic that’s commonly prescribed to dogs to treat Staphylococcus infections.

Is Cephalexin Safe for My Dog?

Cephalexin is a very safe antibiotic in dogs of all ages and sizes. Precautions should be taken in dogs with kidney disease or dogs who have had a history of bad reactions to cephalosporins or penicillin. If your dog is pregnant, there are other antibiotics available that are a much better choice for her. The danger in pregnant dogs isn’t quite known, but the caution is mostly due to there not being enough research to establish how safe cephalexin is in pregnant dogs.

It’s not likely that you have a bottle of cephalexin sitting around your house, but if you do, don’t assume that this is the right antibiotic for your dog. Some infections require a specific antibiotic, and giving one that doesn’t work sets your dog up to become antibiotic resistant, which can be life threatening in the event of a very serious infection. Always let your vet run the necessary tests to decide what antibiotic is appropriate to treat your dog. The more tests they can run, the more accurate their diagnosis.

How Much Cephalexin Can I Give My Dog?

There are a wide range of dog dosages for cephalexin to treat infections. The dose depends entirely on what kind of infection is being treated. The dose is adjusted in dogs with pre-existing medical conditions to reduce the chances of any negative side effects, emphasizing the importance of seeing a veterinarian and not self-diagnosing. A Staph infection is typically treated with 13.6 mg per pound every 12 hours. A nasty skin infection known as pyoderma is treated with 10 mg per pound every eight hours (orally), while respiratory infections are typically treated with 10-18 mg per pound every eight hours.

The dose gets increasingly higher with more severe/dangerous infections. A soft tissue infection, like an infected wound, requires 14-22.7 mg/lb every 12 hours, while a systemic infection (an infection affecting the entire body) needs 12-27 mg/lb every eight hours.

Luckily, cephalexin is a very safe drug and unlikely to hurt your dog in the event of an overdose. If your dog is overdosed, they’ll most likely suffer from diarrhea and vomiting. Typical side effects of an appropriate dose are limited to stomach upset, a lack of appetite, weight loss, salivation, rapid breathing, and hyperactivity. If you notice any marked change in your dog’s behavior, you should consult with your vet to decide if it is because of the antibiotic.

Dogs that are sensitive to cephalexin may experience more severe side effects in the form of rashes, fever, and even a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. An allergic reaction is dangerous and can be life threatening, so ensure you’re in contact with your vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Extended use of cephalexin has been shown to affect the body’s white blood cell count, decreasing the amount of white cells in the body. It has also been linked to hepatitis, tubular necrosis of the kidneys, and interstitial nephritis (a painful inflammation of the kidneys).

The Importance of Finishing a Course of Antibiotics

It may be tempting to stop giving the antibiotic when your dog starts feeling better, but this is a very reckless decision. A full course of cephalexin is about four weeks long. This might sound like an extremely long time, but it’s actually necessary to fully kill the bacteria, especially if it’s a Staph infection being treated. If you end treatment early, the symptoms will likely return. If they don’t return, then you’re allowing the present bacteria to build a resistance to the antibiotic. Small, short doses allow the bacteria to withstand the drug, while a longer course is what makes them more susceptible to the antibiotic. Always finish the whole bottle of pills your vet gives you!

Cephalexin is a very effective, strong antibiotic designed to treat stubborn bacterial infections in your dog. You should always follow your vet’s treatment recommendation, as well as follow their treatment protocol. Using the antibiotic exactly as prescribed will ensure your dog gets 100 percent better and you can leave their nasty infection in the dust while still allowing the antibiotics to be effective in the future.