Interview with Dr. Bernd Tellhelm (Med. Vet.ECVDI) HD-ED Expert
Updated: Sep 26
Dr. Bernd Tellhelm is a veterinary specialist in radiology and other imaging techniques such as CT as well as a veterinary specialist in surgery. He is a senior lecturer at the University of Gießen and was for more than 25 years the head of the Radiology Department at the Small Animal Clinic at the University of Gießen.
He is the current President of the German Association of Hip Dysplasia "Gesellschaft zur Röntgendiagnostic genetisch beeinflusster Skeletterkrankungen bei Kleintieren" GRSK and long-time president of the International Veterinary Radiology Association (IVRA). He is also a member of the Board of the International Elbow Working Group (IEWG).
He is the leader of the DZG HD-ED Expert Panel used by VDH (the German all breed kennel Club) and the Federal Cynologique Internationale (FCI), and also a member of the Scientific Advisory Councils of SV (German Shepherd Breed Club) as well as the VDH.
He in an author of numerous peer-reviewed academic publications and co-authored and co-published the book "Röntgenuntersuchung in der Tierarztpraxis" ["X-ray Examination in Veterinary Practice"] ISBN: 9783830410409.
Thanks Dr. Tellhelm for taking the time to provide further information about the Dysplasia Zentrum Gießen (DZG) and your long-term involvement with respect to genetically-determined skeletal disorders.
How long have you been involved in canine hip and elbow dysplasia?
I have since 1972 worked as a consultant and decisive expert on matters pertaining to canine hip and elbow dysplasia. I'm a consultant for several kennel clubs, such as but not limited to, Great Danes, Hunting Dogs, Retrievers and of course German Shepherds. I have been a SV consultant for elbow dysplasia for many years and HD consultant since 2012. I'm also a member of the Board of Management of the Society for the Encouragement of Cynologic Science, GKF.
Can you tell us a little about the DZG and HD-ED Expert Team?
The DZG is located in Gießen and work closely with the Department of Small Animal Surgery, Justus-Liebig-University (JLU). The DZG is foremostly focused on Academic Research and we have been involved in research pertaining to the development of genetically influenced skeletal disorders for many years.
All the DZG HD-ED assessors are members of GRSK e.V. Besides our services pertaining to HD/ED assessments, we also offer assessments on transitional vertebrae, OCD, hemivertebra and other vertebral malformations and spondylosis.
The HD-ED Expert Panel includes Dr. Nele Eley (Dipl. ECVDI, GRSK Board, member of the ECVDI Teleradiology Committtee, Partner of VetRad) and Dr. Kerstin von Pückler (Dipl. ECVDI, GRSK Admission Committee, German Officer of IVRA and partner of VetRad) and myself. Both Drs. Eley and von Pückler are specialists in radiology (and other imaging techniques, CT, MRI, etc) and senior consultants and associates of the Department of Radiology and Department of Veterinary Medicine at Justus-Liebig-University.
The HD-ED Expert Panel was formerly established in 2018 but we have worked together for +15years at the Gießen University.
The HD-ED Panel members have all been awarded the title European Specialist in Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging by the European College of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging (ECVDI). We are all members of the GRSK e.V and certified for evaluation of hip and elbow dysplasia. Further, we are certified as experts for HD-ED appeal cases.
What are the objectives of the DZG?
The DZG funds external research projects via the Society for the Advancement of Cynological Research / GKF. Our aim is to support all pedigree dogs with a foremost focus on good animal health. Therefore, the DZG serves numerous club affiliates of the VDH as well as clubs that are not members of the VDH. Our mission is to provide pedigree breeding clubs with independent and continuous evaluation of medical diagnostic data as part of standardising screening procedures for genetically dependent skeletal disorders. The diagnostic procedures relies mainly on x-rays (and CT) due to its low cost and high availability. However, there is an unmet need to standardise the procedures and training to get a homogeneous cohort of data that can assist the academic forum to further our understanding with respect to these genetically-determined skeletal disorders.
For how long has the DZG HD-ED Expert Panel scored German Shepherd Dogs in Germany?
I was commissioned by the SV to score GSD elbows in 2004 and hips since 2011. A contract with DZG was implemented in 2019.
Does the DZG HD-ED Expert Panel score GSD x-rays from other countries?
Yes, we score GSD x-rays for WUSV member countries but also GSD Clubs not affiliated with the WUSV and/or FCI, for example Portugal and Spain - and now Australia.
What is the purpose of a global database of GSD x-rays?
The initiative was instigated by the World Union of German Shepherd Dogs (WUSV) as part of their objective to implement a harmonised standard for GSD breeding wordwide - especially with regard to health. A global standard is imperative for the scientific studies pertaining to research focused on understanding how HD/ED scores may be used to predict a genetic risk. The challenge is that the various countries differ in how they score and x-ray image quality - as well as even tracking the identify of the dogs assigned to images.
How many Foreign Veterinary Radiologist are already involved with the DZG HD-ED Expert Panel and their commissioned role within WUSV/SV?
There are about 70 veterinarians but the list is growing.
Can you describe the GSD HD-ED scoring process used by the DZG?
Typically I score the images. If there are questionable cases then that is addressed by the full Expert Panel Team. If an owner questions the outcome then the whole team is involved.
What happen if we have an Australian GSD owner who want to appeal a scoring?
We can set up an Appeal process for Australia which will be based on the uploaded images. The Appeal process will be no different to the standard Appeal Process utilised by the VDH/FCI and SV/WUSV. The Appeal Expert will be Prof. Dr. S. Ohlerth, who is the Head of Department for Imaging at the VetSuisse University in Zürick.
How many German Shepherd dogs do you think you have scored - roughly?
Hmmmm - all together probably about 50,000.
What is the role of the DZG on the Scientific Advisory Councils for Pedigree Breeding Clubs through FCI/VDH, SV/WUSV or Clubs affiliated with none of these entities?
The HD-ED screening processes by various pedigree clubs are one of many means to inform selection of animals worthy for breeding. The processes are not always easy to understand for dog owners/breeders. Therefore, the DZG is commissioned as a third-party to provide care and advice to such clubs, their members and breeders. In general, the DZG offers advice to organisations such as the FCI and WUSV with respect to planning and implementation of activities that informs the genetically-determined health of an animal. Such advice is given in close collaboration with geneticists.
Dr. Tellhelm, on behalf of Australia, thank you very much for a very informative interview. The WGSDCA hopes this information further drives a collaboration between Australian Veterinarieans, GSD breeders and owners.