Cephalexin for Cats - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. October 27, 2022
Cephalexin for Cats - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

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Cephalexin is an antibiotic that is used in both human and veterinary medicine, although usually it is less common in the latter. Unfortunately, use of antibiotics can lead to resistance in the organism of the animal, so it is important we only use this drug under strict veterinary guidance. There are also different types of antibiotics for cats, with cephalexin being one known as a beta-lactam antibiotic. It can kill gram-positive and some gram-negative bacteria.

The specific uses, dosage and side effects of cephalexin for cats needs to be determined by a veterinarian. AnimalWised provides a general guide to know what you might expect if your cat needs treatment against bacterial infection with cephalexin.

  1. What is cephalexin for cats?
  2. Cephalexin for cats uses
  3. Dosage of cephalexin for cats
  4. Contraindications of cephalexin for cats
  5. Side effects of cephalexin for cats

What is cephalexin for cats?

Cephalexin is a beta-lactam antibiotic, in a class known as cephalosporins. All antibiotics kill bacteria, but not all antibitoics kill the same bacteria. Cephalosporins are derived from Cephalosporium acremonium bacteria. More specifically, cephalexin acts on the destroying the bacterial wall. It alters its construction, making it unstable until it eventually breaks. It is rapidly absorbed and eliminated through the renal system, being excreted in the urine.

Also spelled cefalexin, cephalexin is sold under various trade names including Cephalex, Keflex, Ceporex and Torlasporin. It is a relatively inexpensive drug and is included in the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

Preparations of cephalexin for cats

We can find various preparations of cephalexin for cats, with the following being the most common:

  • Oral suspension: administration usually in syrup form.

  • Oral tablets: cephalexin is commonly sold in tablet form, some of which are chewable or flavored. These are designed to be more palatable for human ingestion.

  • Injections: cephalexin can be found in an injectable form, although this is usually only administered in a veterinary clinic by professionals. These are only given intramuscularly or subcutaneously.

Cephalexin for cats uses

Being an antibiotic given to cats, the uses of cephalexin are aimed at killing bacteria sensitive to its action. Bacteria which can be destroyed using cephalexin include:

  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Staphylococcus intermedius (some strains)
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Escherichia coli
  • Klebsiella spp.
  • Salmonella spp.
  • Corynebacterium spp.
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Clostridium spp.
  • Actinomyces spp.
  • Streptococcus spp.

Although cephalexin works against a lot of bacteria, it does not work against all of them. This is one reason why it is so important we never give drugs to our cat without veterinary prescription. Uses of cephalexin are more commonly associated with dogs. This is because it has only been FDA approved for use in humans and dogs. This does not mean cephalexin is harmful to cats, but it is another reason it is only ever to be used under a veterinarian's discretion.

When giving cephalexin to cats, veterinarians will usually perform a culture to diagnose the type of bacteria causing an infection. Cephalexin for cats is usually used for infections in the skin or soft tissues. These are often derived from wounds, some of which may lead to types of feline abscesses. It may also be used for certain respiratory infections (e.g. bronchopneumonia), ear infections or genitourinary infections.

Dosage of cephalexin for cats

The doses of cephalexin to give to cats, can only be established by the veterinarian. This is the same for frequency of administration and duration of treatment. How much cephalexin to give to a cat depends on several factors, including the weight of the cat, the disease that is to be treated or the presentation of the chosen drug.

Taking a skin infection for example, if a 15% cephalexin oral suspension is used, the vet will prescribe between 0.1-0.2 ml for each kg of the cat's weight to be administered twice a day. Keep in mind that treatments with cephalexin can be long in duration, often up to several weeks. It is vital we follow the instructions of the veterinarian and never stop the treatment before prescribed, even if it seems to us that the symptoms have subsided.

Cephalexin for cats can be administered with food, which makes it easier for many cats to ingest it. Some specimens better tolerate the administration of chewable or flavored tablets, which can also be crushed and added to the food, if necessary. Take a look at our article on how to give a cat a pill if you are unsure.

Contraindications of cephalexin for cats

There are some instances when a veterinarian will decide that cephalexin is in appropriate for administration to a certain cat. The following are contraindications to take into account before administering cephalexin to a cat, in syrup, tablet or injectable form:

  • Cephalexin has a nephrotoxic effect, which is why its administration is not recommended to cats suffering from serious kidney problems or that have suffered an episode of kidney disease. When eliminated by the kidneys, in cats with impaired kidney function it could accumulate in the body. In these cases, cefalexin should be avoided, given reduced doses or at longer intervals.

  • As a precaution, it is not recommended to give cephalexin to pregnant cats, although no fetal malformations have been described. It is also not recommended during the lactation period.

  • Kittens less than 9-10 weeks old should also not be treated with cephalexin.

  • If the cat is consuming some other drug and the veterinarian does not know it, it must be communicated to avoid possible unwanted reactions.

  • Don't give cephalexin to a cat that has previously shown a hypersensitivity reaction to this substance.

In any case, the contraindications do not mean the cat cannot necessarily use cephalexin. Rather, the veterinarian will have to assess the risks and benefits of administering the drug to a given feline.

Cephalexin for Cats - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects - Contraindications of cephalexin for cats

Side effects of cephalexin for cats

After the administration of cephalexin, some adverse effects may occur. They are rare, usually transitory, not very severe and which resolve spontaneously. In most cases, treatment will not need to be stopped and side effects can be reduced by giving the drug with food. When side effects of cephalexin do occur, they are usually related to the gastrointestinal system. These drugs include:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort (e.g. gastritis in cats)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice

Vomiting and diarrhea in cats is the most common side effect of cephalexin in cats. There is also a potential side effect with injectable cephalexin which can occur due to a reaction at the injection site. It usually disappears spontaneously in a short period of time.

When any of these symptoms appear, we must contact the veterinarian immediately. They will decide if it is necessary to modify or change the treatment. Finally, cephalexin is a safe drug, making it difficult for intoxication due to overdose to occur. If an overdose of cephalexin does occur, the symptoms will be similar to those above, but they may be more severe.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Cephalexin for Cats - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

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Cephalexin for Cats - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects