By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Just like people, our pets, both dogs and cats, can be susceptible to many forms of heart disease. Fortunately, however, in many cases, early detection and treatment of heart disease can make all the difference.

Symptoms may not be easy to recognize, especially in the early stages of the disease where it’s most critical for diagnosis and treatment, so it’s imperative to see your vet for a thorough check-up and evaluation.

Heart disease can either be present at birth (congenital) or acquired later in life, usually in the adult or senior stages.

If your dog is experiencing moderate to severe heart failure symptoms can include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased and possibly rapid panting, lethargic behavior, lack of appetite, general fatigue, bluish or grayish gums, puffy stomach, and increased weight loss.

Cats may not show as many signs, but symptoms can include lack of appetite, weight loss, difficulty breathing and sounds of struggled breathing. It is extremely important to find out before these symptoms develop however, so a trip to the vet is necessary first as early prevention and treatment is the best cure.

Do your part to keep your pet heart-healthy with a daily nutritious diet. Provide the right amount of exercise appropriate for their age and ability. And most importantly, remember to take your pet to the vet for periodic check-ups and a clean bill of health.