Is Cephalexin a Safe Antibiotic For My Dog?

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Cephalexin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used for various types of bacterial infections including those of the upper respiratory tract, urinary tract and even the skin and bones.

You’ll be happy to hear the drug AKA Cefalexin, when given correctly, is fairly safe for dogs.

Can I Give My Dog Cephalexin?Vets prescribe Cephalexin and there are typically few serious side effects.

Nevertheless, this antibiotic must be used responsibly. You need to be sure it is appropriate for your dog’s situation.

Despite Cephalexin’s good safety record, administering a leftover supply is a bad idea.

With Vet Approval, Your Dog Can Take Cephalexin

Get a prescription with detailed instructions. Any animal with an infection requires a diagnosis for safe and effective treatment.

Play it safe. Take your dog to a trusted veterinarian.

While Cephalexin works, and is usually well-tolerated, there may be a more suitable antibiotic. It really depends on your pet’s prognosis.

Key Considerations For K9s

You have to take into account medical history before giving your dog Cephalexin, or Amoxicillin or any other antibiotic.

Does your dog suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Allergies to certain medications

If so, that is all the more reason to get professional help!

Warning: Pregnant or nursing dogs are at especially high risk to side effects from taking antibiotics.

Some Dog Dosing Guidelines

A Cephalexin dose typically ranges from 10mg or 15mg for every pound of body weight given every 8-12 hours.

One tip that applies to all antibiotics is that you must be consistent with dosing as well as timing. Failure to do so will greatly reduce the medication’s effectiveness.

Cephalexin should usually be provided with food. Otherwise, your dog may experience diarrhea or vomiting or nausea.

And always remember that while Cefalexin is pretty safe, there are side effects associated with this drug AKA Biocef, Keflex and Keftab.

Known Cephalexin Side Effects

Of course, all antibiotics have potential to cause complications.

Dogs can suffer many of the same side effects that humans do. These include nausea, stomach cramps and dehydration.

Other negative signs specific to canines may appear as:

  • Panting (shortness of breath)
  • Swelling of the face or mouth area
  • Excessive drooling
  • Rashes
  • Bloody stools
  • Hyper-excitability

There is actually less conclusive data on the effects of Cephalexin as it applies to pets. You should assume there is relatively more risk!

Caution: It is been suggested many older dogs do not take so well to antibiotics.

The Bottom Line

Only give your dog Cephalexin at the direction of your vet.

Getting a diagnosis will form the basis for a full recovery.

Do not go it alone. Yet learn as much as possible about this antibiotic in order to intelligently discuss treatment options.

Last but not least, keep any personal supply of Cephalexin well out of your dog’s reach.

What Do You Think? Have Your Say Below…

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37 thoughts on “Is Cephalexin a Safe Antibiotic For My Dog?”

  1. Can I give Cephalexin to my dog? He has diarrhea.

  2. How long of a course of treatment to get rid of a bladder infection in an adult spayed GSD?

  3. I have an 8 year old Maltese. She has a urinary problem. She goes 6 or 8 times when I let her out. I have Cephalexin (500mg) caps substituted for Keflex. They were mine. I was just wondering could I give some to her and how much?

  4. What do you suppose would happen to a 50 pound dog if they were given five 500mg tablets twice daily for 14 days?

  5. The vet gave my pure breed Jack Russell a cephalexin prescription for a mild skin infection. My dog acted funny the same night with extra salivation and seemed too quiet for a 9 month old puppy. I didn’t know what was going on and I gave him another dose the next day before realizing it was killing him.

    Another vet said the drug had attacked his nervous system and my dog died 4 days later. Do not give cephalexin to your dog, even if a vet is saying it is safe. She had warned me not to read or trust what was written online.

    1. Orange Lee says:

      That’s so sad. My goodness, cephalexin for skin infection? I think that’s wrong. Amoxicillin can be used for that. Anyway, thank you for this information Karine.

      1. Actually my dog’s vet has prescribed Cephalexin for his skin rash and redness. He is a Shih-Poo and the medication has no side effects on him. It’s going to be given to him over a long period of time.

  6. Not everyone can afford Cefpodoxime Proxetil, especially those of us retired. Cephalexin is an acceptable substitute to treat my dogs, and is affordable.

  7. My German Shepherd was given Neomycin and Cephalexin for perivulvar dermatitis. I tried sausage, chunks of chicken and hamburger to hide the capsules but she finds them. Can I open the capsules and put the powder contents in her regular dog food? I want to make sure she gets all her medicine.

    1. I have 2 GSDs and 1 has been given antibiotics extensively. You can open the capsules but the powder is usually sour and may cause your dog not to eat all of what you put it in. They have terrific noses. I use peanut butter that has no salt. Antibiotics tend to upset the stomach so most of them should be given with food. Good luck.

    2. Peanut butter on a torn piece of tortilla shell with the pill in the middle did it for my Great Pyrenees mix. She went on Cephalexin for an extreme infection of the mouth and healed almost completely up in 8 days.

      She was a lot more thirsty but beyond that, no side effects. I agree with the other posters that you have to monitor your pet and stop the meds if the reaction is negative.

    3. I use Milk-Bone pill pouches. They work great because there is a hole in the middle of it so the pill fits right in!

  8. I had a beautiful 8 year old Maltese and my vet gave her Apoquel as well as Cephalexin for her allergies. She was perfectly healthy other than the allergies when we left the office. In 3 days she was in such bad shape. I took her back in and they said she was in respiratory failure and heart failure.

    My vet states that the meds were not what caused her death. I am so heart broken because I’ve lost my dog with no answers on how to handle this. What do I do?

  9. My dog was prescribed Cephalexin for a skin infection caused 100% by a barrage of vaccinations that hit him when he was young. The Cephalexin almost crippled him. He was then given Prednisone to overcome the effects. The Prednisone sent him into fatal kidney failure.

    A review of the New York Times, 1851 to 1920, showed that domestic dogs averaged longer lifespans before the arrival of organized veterinary medicine and its dangerous medications, all intended to loot the public pocketbook.

  10. I took my dog to see a vet for a pink rash and itching. The tech checked his heart beat. The vet came in and tried to lift my dog from the floor to the exam table by his collar. I stopped him and did it myself. No test was conducted but we were given a script for Cephalexin. The poor vet could hardly walk through the door, seeming to be unable to function. He allegedly gave my dog a shot.

    I held his head and front legs while he was supposed to inject. My dog always makes a noise when poked and has been unable to do blood test with previous vets because he’s too skittish. I waited and waited for a whimper, but he did not make a sound. I do not think he gave the injection. What should I do? He had no tests to confirm bacterial infection, etc. Please advise!

    1. I’m not an expert or anything, but after that I’d seriously consider talking to another vet.

  11. We live in Malaysia and our 4 year old Golden Retriever is prone to hot spots, although she hasn’t had an episode in over a year until this weekend. 3 years ago she was prescribed an antibiotic and it very nearly killed her. Until yesterday I was so scared, I treated her only with topical ointment and medicated wash. We started Cephalexin last night and so far no negative reactions, but I’m still holding my breath.

  12. My dog had 9 lumps removed in her belly area and was spaded because they thought it was cancer. They put her on Cephalexin. That night she was panting so hard and was restless and kept trying to find a place to hide. I called and went to the vet first thing in the morning. He did blood work and her white blood count was up so he changed her antibiotic. Her panting was probably anxiety so he gave her Xanax.

  13. My 10 year old Beagle, 9 year old Saint Bernard/Golden mix have been on this as well as my Chocolate Labrador off and on many times in her 7 years. None of them have had a single problem. Just like all medications there are possible side effects. I always monitor my animals when starting medications and if signs of something occur, then I take action.

    1. Thank you for being the voice of reason here. Owners jumping to irrational conclusions was one of the worst parts of being a vet tech for years.

  14. This is scary. My dog just had a cyst removed and she was prescribed 500mg of Cephalexin to take twice a day with food. I came here to see what it’s for, thinking it was probably an antibiotic. What I read is alarming. I fully trust our vet, so I am going to continue to give it to our beloved dog, but I am definitely watching for the signs mentioned above in case she isn’t handling it well.

  15. My Lab mix was given this in 500mg to be given 2 time daily for Intervertebral Disc Disease. She also takes 2 different pain medications, 1 muscle relaxer and Prednisone. After she was on a full days dose I noticed heavy panting, she was also unable to be still and was really thirsty.

    I stopped the drug after a Google search. It’s not even approved for animals! Sometimes you have to be in tune with your dog when they are taking new meds. Please research before you administer anything and do what you think is right. I am so sorry for those who lost their pet to this drug.

  16. After reading these accounts I am worried. I have given two doses of Cephalexin, dose unknown as it’s not on the label. Within a half hour he is notably different in behavior (short breaths, pacing, unable to settle, seeking strange locations, tail between legs and jumping up on me as if to be soothed or somehow helped).

    I’m not aware of diarrhea or blood in his feces at this point but will now watch for it. I’m holding back this evening’s dose until I can reach the vet in the morning. When they give you meds for pets they don’t come with the pages of side effects that human use does. Sorry to hear of the losses of your companions.

    1. These are the kind of symptoms that often can be associated with Cephalexin. I would stop giving it immediately. It is even more dangerous if you don’t know the dosage you are administering. If the vet tells you to continue despite the symptoms you mention above, I would look for another veterinarian.

    2. I did talk to my vet who basically said these are not symptoms commonly associated with an antibiotic. He stated, “given we don’t know if he has a systemic infection” (no blood work was done), and he advised to continue with the topical ointment and we’ll see how it goes. Jim, thanks for your comments.

  17. Wish I had read this site before! My beloved Berner passed away on 10/13. He was 1 month shy of his 6th birthday. He had been on a this nasty drug 3 weeks prior to his death for an ear infection. The 4th week he was back at the vet for blood work and Anemia was the diagnosis.

    My Vet and an internal specialist told me Cephalexin was the #2 cause of internal bleeding. My boy was gone 5 days later. My warning to all, stay away from this drug!

    1. Orange Lee says:

      I have a 5 year old Labrador that had a liver infection. His urine had turned red, his eyes became red and he also didn’t want to eat. I did a lot of research. Here, in the Philippines, I don’t know if there are good experts.

      Today is his 7th day of medication. He is active and seems okay. Others don’t care about your dog as much as the pet parent does. They tend to only give medicine without much research. I’m not an expert, I’m not a vet but I saved the life of my dog due to research.

  18. We breed English Bulldogs and many times our vet has prescribed Cephalexin for my dogs. They never had any problems. I see that others have had severe problems and I am sorry to hear about that.

  19. Stephanie says:

    My Boxer recently has what looks to be a spider bite or skin infection that is deteriorating his skin causing open lesions all over his shoulder, a new one everyday. I took him to the vet and for $110.00, for a 15 minute consultation, I was told she had never seen this before.

    Then I was given a script for 500mg Cephalexin two times a day. Is this really safe? After reading these comments, I don’t know what to do. Should I give it to him or not? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  20. I gave my Shepard, Akita, Huskie mix this medicine. The vet had prescribed it. Every time he had a dose, the next day he would become sick, drooling, unable to get around, not wanting to eat, heavy breathing like he could not get enough air. This would pass and do to the fact that he would not take anything, even the medicine, he would get better in a few days by just resting.

    We gave him another dose before we went to bed around 2:00 am. When I woke for work he was starting to display symptoms again. Upon returning from work he was still not better. He died around 5:30 to 6:00 pm. The next day we took his remains to the vet for cremation, and we talked about the symptoms he had.

    Turns out, the internet talks about these same symptoms in other dogs and they ended up the same. Other vets also said they had never seen an allergic reaction with this medicine. We still say that is what killed Thunder the night before. This medicine should come with a warning to watch out for these symptoms. He was my service animal and my very best friend. I will miss him dearly.

    1. Vets need to stop giving animals this mess before it kills many more. It isn’t right to the owners who are trying to make their dogs better. We lost our dog last week from this med too.

    2. My Springer Spaniel was put on Cephalexin for an infection caused by a dog bite. I trusted my vet knew what he was doing. Shortly after starting the medication, we noticed Bailee was restless at night and wanted to be as close to me as possible.

      Just recently, we noticed she was twitching all night and so I stopped the medication. I am so glad I did. Will give her a few days and see if the twitching etc. stops. Will also bring this issue up with my vet. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Most vets will insist Cephalexin is safe. However, this may not be true in all cases (especially for geriatric dogs). My vet prescribed this long term for my Akita and claims she had not seen side effects in dogs. I believe it may have contributed to anemia, dehydration and death. I wish I had stopped the medication.

  22. My dog was straining to pee and I took him to the vet. They charged me 165 dollars for 33 pills. He was on antibiotics for 3 days, going to the bathroom fine and I skipped one day by accident. Now he’s straining again so I started back on the pills.

    My other vet use to give Keflex and it was much cheaper. These vets today just seem to want to clean your pockets. I would spend my last dime on my animals but these vets do nothing for less than a few hundred dollars a visit. That’s a bit much!

    1. I agree with you Paul. Glad you are trying to do your research. Often times you can avoid a vet visit, but sometimes it’s prudent to go. I hope your dog’s urinary problem has improved.

    2. So after putting your dog back on the Keflex he seems to be fine again? How large is your dog and what is the dosage the vet gave him?

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