A very painful condition of the skin, spiculosis occurs most commonly in adult Kerry Blue Terriers, and is more generally seen in males but may also be present in females during their adult years. These spicules are very dense and hard strands of hair that are very thick and spiky in both texture and size. Not all Kerry Blue Terriers will develop the condition, it is much more prevalent in some lines than others so be sure to ask about the condition before selecting a kennel or breeding line.
The spiculosis condition is also known as rose thorns or bristles and may also be noted in Kerry Blue mixed dogs but is very rarely seen in any other breed. While the most common location for these hard, spiky hairs is on the elbows and the hocks of the legs, they can also be found on the face, neck, body and tail, virtually anywhere on the dog's body. Typically Kerry Blue Terriers with a very stiff coat are more prone to the condition and those that have the breed standard "soft, dense and wavy" coat are less likely to develop the condition.
Often owners of Kerry Blue Terriers begin to notice these hard, spiky, thick hairs when grooming their dog. Most owners will simply pull them or pluck them with their fingers, they will often come out rather easily if they have not become infected. If, however, the follicle or root of the spike is infected or embedded deep in the skin it may be too difficult, not to say painful for the dog, to simply pull them out. Once the hair shaft becomes infected and swollen the skin will become very painful, it may feel similar to having an ingrown whisker or hair that is constantly irritated every time the hair is touched in petting, brushing or just normal body movements.
In some cases these spicules can occur between the pads of the feet leading to lameness and severe pain with any pressure on the feet. The ears are also very sensitive areas that a spicule can really cause discomfort and pain. If the hair breaks off and the root remains under the skin infection and swelling almost always occurs.
Since there is no way to prevent these tough, thick hairs from growing all that can be done is to remove them as soon as they are noted in the coat. In cases where the area has become infected antibiotics will be needed to prevent any type of serious infection or damage to the skin. When the root or follicle of the spicule is deeply imbedded surgery may be required to remove the whole hair shaft, thus preventing any further problems. Regular grooming and plucking of the spicules is the best option to maintain a healthy coat. Many owners recommend doing the plucking immediately after a bath when the pores of the skin are more relaxed and open. There are also some salves that may be used as antibiotic treatments to prevent infections after the coarse hairs are removed.