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As devoted pet parents, we want nothing but the best for our furry companions. When our dogs fall sick, we don’t just feel their pain, but we also scramble to get them the best care possible to help them bounce back to their playful selves.

One medication veterinarians often prescribe off-label for various bacterial infections in dogs is cephalexin, also known by its brand names Keflex and Daxbia. But what exactly is cephalexin? What is cephalexin used for in dogs, and what dosage is appropriate for your dog?

In this blog post, we’ll delve into what cephalexin is, its common uses, dosages, potential side effects, and more. We hope to equip you with the knowledge to ensure your cherished pup reaps the full benefits of this treatment while minimizing potential risks. Read on to learn more.

What Is Cephalexin?

Cephalexin can treat a range of bacterial infection but is most commonly prescribed for pyoderma and UTIs

Cephalexin, also known as Keflex and Daxbia, is a first-generation cephalosporin, a class of antibiotics that are effective against a broad range of bacteria.1 While it is a human medication, it is often prescribed off-label for dogs, treating a range of bacterial infections such as skin infections like pyoderma and urinary tract infections.

Cephalexin is available in a number of oral formats for dogs, which can make administering the medication easier depending on the preferences of your dog. You can find this medication in the forms of chewable tablets, tablets, capsules, oral suspensions, and oral pastes. It works by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, thereby clearing up the infection.

As a prescription medication, it’s important to keep in mind that cephalexin should only be given to your dog under the guidance of a veterinarian. Follow your vet’s directions to a tee and get help immediately if your dog shows any signs of an adverse reaction.

What Is Cephalexin Used For In Dogs?

As we’ve mentioned, cephalexin can be used to treat a range of bacterial infections in dogs. While it is at times prescribed for bone infections, ear infections, respiratory infections, and dental infections, such as those caused by gum disease in dogs, this medication is most commonly used for pyoderma and urinary tract infections. Let’s take a look at how these infections can affect your dog.

  • Pyoderma: Pyoderma in dogs refers to a bacterial skin infection that affects the superficial layers of the skin. It is a relatively common condition in dogs that can be caused by moisture and heat, allergic reactions, skin damage, and immune system issues. A dog affected by pyoderma will exhibit certain telltale signs such as itching and scratching, hair loss, crusty and scaly skin, and more. To treat this infection, your vet may prescribe cephalexin in addition to topical treatments like medical shampoos and ointments to soothe your dog’s skin. Cephalexin is especially effective against Staphylococcal bacteria, a regular culprit of pyoderma.2
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs in dogs refer to bacterial infections that affect the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. They are typically caused by Escherichia coli bacteria, urinary tract abnormalities, urinary stones, and a weakened immune system. Generally, cephalexin for dogs is an effective UTI antibiotic. It can effectively treat UTIs as long as you follow your vet’s directions and administer the full course of the antibiotic. However, you must also make sure your dog is adequately hydrated, take them out for regular potty breaks, and keep their genital area clean and trimmed.3

Cephalexin Dosages

The recommended dosage of cephalexin for dogs is 7 to 20 milligrams per pound of body weight every 6 to 12 hours

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the recommended dosage of cephalexin for dogs is typically 7 to 20 milligrams per pound of body weight every 6 to 12 hours.4 However, cephalexin dosages for dogs can be different depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Weight: The dosage of cephalexin is often determined based on your dog's body weight. Smaller dogs typically require lower doses compared to larger dogs.
  • Age: Depending on your dog’s age, they may also need different doses of cephalexin. Older dogs in particular may need lower doses because of their slower metabolism, increased body fat, decreased muscle mass, and more.
  • Overall health: Dogs with pre-existing health conditions may process and eliminate medications differently, which can impact dosage requirements.
  • Severity of infection: The severity and type of infection being treated can influence the dosage as well. More severe or deep-seated infections may require higher dosages or longer treatment courses.
  • Frequency of administration: Cephalexin is typically administered two to three times a day, and your vet will determine the dosage appropriate for your dog depending on the frequency of administration.
  • Medication format: Cephalexin is available in multiple oral formats. Depending on whether your dog is taking chewable tablets, tablets, capsules, oral suspensions, or oral pastes, they may need different dosages.

As a general rule of thumb, always follow your veterinarian’s instructions when administering cephalexin to your dog to ensure their health and safety. They will take the above factors into consideration when prescribing cephalexin.

Additionally, even if your dog’s symptoms improve before the treatment is finished, it is crucial to complete the entire course of cephalexin. Stopping the medication prematurely can lead to incomplete resolution of the infection and the development of antibiotic resistance.

How Long Does Cephalexin Take To Work?

The exact amount of time it takes for cephalexin to work in dogs can vary depending on the type and severity of the infection. However, in general, you should start to see an improvement in your dog's symptoms within a few days of starting the medication.

If your dog's condition does not improve within a few days or gets worse, speak with a vet immediately. They may need to reassess the diagnosis and treatment plan, which could include switching to a different antibiotic or performing additional tests to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms.

Side Effects Of Cephalexin

Side effects of cephalexin for dogs

Similar to any medication, cephalexin comes with the possibility of side effects. Fortunately, cephalexin for dogs side effects are rare, and when they do occur, they are generally mild in nature. The most common side effects of cephalexin for dogs include:

  • Changes in behavior and energy levels: When taking cephalexin, some dogs may seem lethargic and less playful than usual. Generally, unless your dog’s lethargy is accompanied with other concerning symptoms, there is no need to worry. Make sure they are hydrated and get enough rest.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are fairly common when taking cephalexin. Occasional episodes of mild vomiting or diarrhea that resolve quickly on their own may not be a cause for immediate concern. However, if the vomiting or diarrhea is severe and persistent, consult with a vet as soon as possible.5
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, dogs can have an allergic reaction to cephalexin. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction can include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. This is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Are There Alternatives To Cephalexin For Dogs?

Other antibiotics can be used as alternatives to cephalexin for dogs. The specific antibiotic prescribed by your veterinarian will depend on factors such as the type and location of the bacterial infection, the infection's severity, and any specific health considerations unique to your dog. Some alternatives to cephalexin for dogs include:

Work with your vet to determine the best antibiotic for your dog’s needs.

Cephalexin For Dogs: FAQs

Can I stop giving my dog cephalexin if they seem to be feeling better?

No, it's important to complete the full course of the antibiotic, even if your dog seems to be feeling better. Stopping an antibiotic early can lead to antibiotic resistance, making infections harder to treat in the future.

Can cephalexin be used to treat viral or fungal infections in dogs?

No, cephalexin is an antibiotic, which means it is effective against bacterial infections but not against viral or fungal infections. Your vet will determine the appropriate medication based on the type of infection your dog has.

Dog laying flat on a chair with paws out in front

Final Notes

Overall, cephalexin is a commonly used and effective antibiotic for treating bacterial infections in dogs. However, it should only be used under the guidance and prescription of a veterinarian who can determine the appropriate dosage and duration of treatment based on your dog's specific needs.

If you have additional questions about cephalexin for dogs, or if you're considering exploring online prescription options for your furry friend, consult a Dutch veterinarian. With Dutch, you can access expert veterinary advice without stepping out of your home. Moreover, we offer a seamless service that delivers prescribed medications right to your doorstep.

Created by pet parents for pet parents, Dutch treats a wide range of pet health issues, encompassing allergies, anxiety, arthritis, urinary issues, and more. Try Dutch today and journey towards a healthier future for your pet.



  1. "Cephalexin." MedlinePlus.

  2. Diaz, Sandra. "Pyoderma in Dogs and Cats." Merck Veterinary Manual. Oct. 2022,

  3. M. Dowling, Patricia. "Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections." Merck Veterinary Manual. Nov. 2022,

  4. "Dosages of Cephalosporins." Merck Veterinary Manual.

  5. Brooks, Wendy. "Cephalexin (Keflex)." Veterinary Partner. 15 Feb. 2023,

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