PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Researchers at Oregon State University-Cascades say studying gut bacteria in wild wolves “may be key” to improving gastrointestinal health in domestic dogs.

The study, published in Applied Microbiology, found that a novel strain of Paenibacillus bacteria, in a wild wolf gut microbiome, had characteristics to stave off canine inflammatory disease, which researchers say is a common and “debilitating” condition in domestic dogs.

Researchers say the study is an important step towards developing a dietary supplement or food additive that can steer a dog’s microbiome back to that of a wolf, its common ancestry.

During the study, researchers collected gastrointestinal material from a wolf one day after it died after being struck by a car, according to OSU. Scientists isolated 20 different gut bacteria, that show probiotic qualities and can help ward off canine inflammatory disease.

“At present, there is no known cure for this ongoing dysbiosis of the gastrointestinal tract, and there are limited options for treatment,” said Bruce Seal of OSU-Cascades’ biology program. “Underlying causes of the condition include an animal’s genetics, environmental factors, the immunological state of the GI tract and, maybe most importantly, an altered gut microbiome.”

Seal explained the disease causes vomiting, reduced appetite, weight loss, flatulence, a rumbling stomach and abdominal discomfort.

According to Seal, the novel bacteria strain “encodes enzymes” that can digest complex carbs such as starches, which are common in modern dog diets.

“Dogs were the first domesticated animal,” Seal said. “The modern dog diet, high in carbohydrates, does not reflect a wolf’s diet. For example, starches in processed dog food are resistant to digestion, and that can have a negative impact on the microbial community in a dog’s GI tract and in turn its gastric physiology.”

Moving forward, researchers plan to perform genome sequencing on four to five other bacterial species among the 20 isolated bacterium.

“Non-toxic, spore-forming bacteria promote anti-inflammatory immune responses in the gut and inhibit pathogen growth,” Seal said. “Taking everything into account, this bacterial isolate could be a potential useful probiotic for domestic dogs.”