The Surprising Truth Behind the ‘Crusty White Dog’ Internet Sensation!

Even if you’ve never owned one yourself you know someone who has owned at least one white crusty dog. Ugly crusty white dogs are an internet sensation, and some people proudly pledge their allegiance to white dogs with crusty eyes with zero hesitation. 

Crusty White Dog

Small crusty white dogs are typically toy breeds and lap dogs with fluffy white coats that tears can easily stain. Sometimes stereotyped as aggressive or mean, it’s not the crusty dog’s fault it’s crusty! Crusty-eyed white dogs usually have something called epiphora, or excessive eye watering. As the dogs’ eyes water, they also release a molecule that stains their fur as it breaks down. 

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @_CrustyWhiteDog_, @CrustyWhiteDogClub, and @CrustyDogRetirement

There’s nothing wrong with having a crusty little white dog, but there are things you can do to reduce their crust, improve staining, and make them more comfortable. In this guide, we’ll talk about one of our favorite internet inside jokes—the white crusty dog meme—why small white dogs get eye crust, and how you can treat common conditions that cause tear stains. 

What Is the Crusty White Dog Meme? 

The idea of a musty white dog has been a common joke for more than a decade, but the term “white crust dog” is a more recent phenomenon popularized on social media sites like Tumblr, Reddit, X (nee Twitter), and TikTok. 

People around the world have used images like this one to create hilarious crusty little white dog memes, usually captioning them with something like: “Girls always like ‘isn’t my dog so cute?’ but it’s a white dog with those crispy red eye stains.”

crusty white dogs

Sometimes, people also call white crusty little dogs affectionately mean names like ‘little white rat dogs’ and ‘ugly crusty white dogs.’ Though the internet may sometimes seem a little harsh in their small white dog memes, the root of this joke is about how much people adore their little white dog with crusty eyes. Dog owners really are devoted to these little cuties, and also love to participate in the joke about their goopy little companions. 

How Do Little White Dogs Get Crusty Eyes?

Dogs have tear ducts just like humans, and their eyes water throughout the day. Often, white crusty dog breeds have longer fur, which can easily collect tears and “gunk” from the eyes. 

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“[Eye crust] is made out of dried tears, oil, mucus, dead cells, dust, etc., and is typically clear or slightly reddish-brown in color,” says The Animal Care Hospital of Phoenix. “It’s most evident in the morning and is often perfectly normal. The amount of eye goop a dog produces each night (or after long naps) should stay relatively constant.” 

If you notice that your dog has more than just a little eye goop and is turning into a little white crusty dog, there could be an underlying condition affecting the amount of discharge coming from their eyes. Here are a few reasons a dog’s eyes might water excessively. 

Crusty White Dog
Source: Natural Dog Company

Eye Shape

Some dog breeds—like the common white dog with crusty eyes breeds—have been selectively bred for a flatter or smaller head/face, which consequently causes their eyes to be more protruded. Dogs with larger or bulging eyes are more prone to over-watering, meaning they have an excessive amount of tears.

This is called epiphora in dogs and occurs when the tear ducts are squeezed and there is not enough room for the tears to flow. This can cause inflamed and red eyes, and excessive eye watering as a result of the pressure and discomfort. 

Epiphora cannot be cured and is not dangerous to the dog, so the easiest solution is to treat the tear stains at home and keep your pup’s eyes clean. For dogs with severe epiphora, prolonged periods without proper care and grooming can result in skin conditions like rashes and other irritation. 

Stress

Extreme anxiety, stress, and emotional distress can cause physical symptoms for your dog, just like you. Eye-watering and eye irritation are relatively common for dogs who are under a great deal of stress, though stress is typically only one of several underlying causes for excessive eye watering. 

Ingrown Eyelashes

Dogs can experience a condition called entropion that causes their eyelashes to grow inwards towards the eye. 

“Entropion most commonly affects a pet’s lower eyelid, but it can also occur with the upper eyelid,” says veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Carrie Breaux in an interview with West Vet. “This disorder results in problems ranging from minor irritation to severe discomfort to severe damage to the eyeball. It can even affect your pet’s eyesight.

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Excessive squinting, blinking, discharge, and tears are all signs your dog could be experiencing entropion, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Early intervention is key to preserving your dog’s eyesight. 

Ear & Eye Infections

Infections of the eye and ear can cause abnormal discharge. Eye infections and injuries may be more obvious culprits of excessive tearing, but it’s important to know that inner ear issues may also be the cause. If you suspect your dog has an eye or ear infection, contact your vet immediately. Treatment options typically include topical or oral antibiotics and occasionally may include painkillers. 

Allergies, Diet, & Environment

Dogs can be allergic or sensitive to environmental factors like pollen, dust, food, etc., and these allergies can cause inflammation and excessive eye watering. If your dog is itching, has red eyes or red skin around the eyes, feet, or belly, has been licking themselves excessively, and has extra-watery eyes, it’s a good idea to bring them to the vet for an allergy test. 

For some dogs, the solution to excessive tearing can be as simple as a diet change. 

How To Treat & Reduce Tear Stains

Crusty White Dog
Source: betootaadvocate.com

Tear stains themselves are the product of a molecule called porphyrin that turns a reddish-brown color when exposed to oxygen. Safe for the dog and produced by its own body, porphyrin tear stains are only an aesthetic issue, as long as you don’t let the goop build up. 

Allowing your dog’s under-eyes to be excessively wet and crusty for extended periods can cause your dog’s skin to become irritated, so cleaning their gunk is also a matter of keeping them comfortable. 

If you have ruled out health issues and know that your crusty white dog just needs at-home treatment, use these strategies to keep your little white dog crust-free. 

  • Wipe your dog’s eyes with a damp rag—use just lukewarm or cool water without any soap!
  • Use dog-safe tear-stain removers. Ask your vet for a recommendation. 
  • Get your pup professional regular grooming and ask them to trim away excess hair under the eyes. You can also ask if they offer test remover or lightening treatments for your dog’s coat like a blueberry facial! 
  • Use a comb at home to regularly brush out crusts from your pup’s fur—be gentle and work slowly! 
  • Give your dog a supplement for tear stains—we like the antioxidant Tear Stain Bites from Zesty Paws. 
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8 Common Crusty Small White Dog Breeds 

If you want one of these sweet pups of your own, you might be asking: what is a crusty white dog? What are some crusty white dog breed names, and what are these dogs like to live with and own? Let’s take a look at eight dog breeds sometimes known as little white crusty dogs. 

1. Bichon Frise

crusty white dogs
Sources: @Pepe.Bichon, @Marnie_The_Bichon_Frise, and @PopoyBibow

Bichon Frise Basic Info

  • Temperament: Gentle, Affectionate, Energetic
  • Size: 9.5–11.5 inches tall — 12–18 pounds
  • Shedding: Very low
  • Lifespan: 14–15 years
  • Breed Group: Non-Sporting

2. Cairn Terrier

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @PatAPanArt, @Jojo_CairnTerrier, and @CairnTerrier_Lulu

Cairn Terrier Basic Info

  • Temperament: Alert, Playful, Loyal
  • Size: 9–10 inches tall — 13–14 pounds
  • Shedding: Light
  • Lifespan: 13–15 years
  • Breed Group: Terrier

3. Lhasa Apso

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @Leo.TheLhasa, @Max_TheLhasa, and @Mel.F.Silva

Lhasa Apso Basic Info

  • Temperament: Playful, Intelligent, Dignified
  • Size: 10–11 inches — 12–18 pounds
  • Shedding: Very low
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Breed Group: Non-Sporting

4. Maltese

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @Fuurinito, @MochiFloof, and @Maltese_Kimi

Maltese Dog Basic Info

  • Temperament: Gentle, Loving, Playful
  • Size: 7–9 inches tall — 7 pounds or less
  • Shedding: Very low
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Breed Group: Toy

5. Pekingese

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @Ten.Ten_1125, @Monsieur.Dodo_, and @Toufukun_Pe

Pekingese Basic Info

  • Temperament: Confident, Loyal, Opinionated
  • Size: 6–9 inches tall — 14 pounds or less
  • Shedding: Moderate
  • Lifespan: 12–14 years
  • Breed Group: Toy

6. Poodle (Toy)

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @SugarTheToy, @ToyPoodle_Maylo, and @Arang2o_o

Poodle Basic Info

  • Temperament: Intelligent, Confident, Energetic
  • Size: 10 inches tall or less — 4–6 pounds
  • Shedding: Very low
  • Lifespan: 10–18 years
  • Breed Group: Toy

7. Shih Tzu

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @UniBowie, @Ban_Changram, and @429_ShihTzu

Shih Tzu Basic Info

  • Temperament: Goofy, Social, Loving
  • Size: 9–10.5 inches tall — 9–16 pounds
  • Shedding: Very low
  • Lifespan: 10–18 years
  • Breed Group: Toy

8. West Highland White Terrier

Crusty White Dog
Sources: @Latte_Zucchero, @Duncan_The_Westie, and @Pan_Hektor

West Highland White Terrier Basic Info

  • Temperament: Cheerful, Goofy, Energetic
  • Size: 10–11 inches tall — 15–20 pounds
  • Shedding: Moderate 
  • Lifespan: 13–15 years
  • Breed Group: Terrier

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