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Health & Wellness

Cephalexin for dogs: usage and side effects

It’s a dog antibiotic that can only be prescribed by your vet.

Has your dog come down with a bout of red, itchy skin or maybe a stubborn cough with runny eyes and nose? If you haven’t done so already, a veterinarian checkup is due to rule out the cause. But, if you’ve seen the doc and they’ve diagnosed your pup with a pesky bacterial infection, you might’ve received a prescription for cephalexin.

Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Aliya McCullough, explains how cephalexin benefits dogs and the potential side effects you should watch out for. 

What is cephalexin used for?

You’re likely familiar with antibiotics, even if your dog hasn’t been prescribed one in the past. Antibiotics kill harmful bacteria that cause infection or illness in humans and pets. However, they won't work on viral conditions like a dog cold. And when taken without a prescription, they can increase the chances of infection and dogs can become resistant to the medication.

According to Dr. McCullough, cephalexin is a dog antibiotic that treats dogs’ bacterial infections in the ears, skin, urinary and respiratory tracts.

Although cephalexin is sometimes injected at the vet’s office, the antibiotic is typically sent home with pet parents in tablet, capsule or oral-liquid form. Talk to the veterinarian about the right version for your pup.

Cephalexin alternatives‍

Veterinarians prescribe cephalexin, depending on the severity of your pup's bacterial infection. If they think cephalexin is unnecessary, they'll likely recommend an over-the-counter version. But, Dr. McCullough adds that a prescription medicine will probably make your pup feel better sooner.

You might recognize cephalexin by brand names, including Rilexine, Keflex and Vetolexin.

RELATED: Can you give a dog Benadryl?

Cephalexin dosage for dogs‍

Your veterinarian can decide the right cephalexin dosage and length of time your pup should take the antibiotic based on the type of infection, location, severity and your dog’s weight and age.

“While cephalexin is generally safe, too much can make a dog sick. Too little can cause their infection to worsen and contribute to antibiotic resistance,” Dr. McCullough shares.

Don’t look to online dosage calculators to figure out the correct serving size of cephalexin, Dr. McCullough cautions. Only your veterinarian can determine the safe and effective amount for your pup.

And make sure your pup takes the entire course of antibiotics even if they start to get better, unless your veterinarian recommends stopping or decreasing the dosage.

If you suspect your pet may have taken more than their prescribed dosage, contact your veterinarian and/or poison control. 

Cephalexin side effects in dogs

Your dog might experience some side effects when taking cephalexin, but you can likely prevent them by giving the medication to your dog with a meal or snack.

Side effects may include:

Ask your veterinarian if it’s OK for your dog to continue with their activities as usual while taking cephalexin, Dr. McCullough encourages. For example, your veterinarian may recommend skipping swimming sessions and incorporating a medicated shampoo into bath time in cases where they have a bacterial skin infection (like folliculitis).

Always speak with your vet if you have any questions about your dog’s medication or if you notice your dog exhibiting any unusual behaviors.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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