1550s, from distemper (v.); in reference to a disease of dogs, from 1747.
distemper dis·tem·per (dĭs-těm'pər)
An infectious viral disease occurring in dogs, characterized by loss of appetite, a catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, partial paralysis, and sometimes death.
A similar viral disease of cats characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, and sometimes death.
Any of various similar mammalian diseases.